In the movie Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner’s character finds himself wandering through his Iowa cornfield as a dusk orange sun begins to set in the distance. Suddenly, he hears a series of dreamlike whispers through the wind instructing him to “build it,” and he finds the inspiration to construct a baseball diamond on his property.
While it can’t be said for sure how Pat and Beth O’Connor drew their inspiration for a one-fourth scale replica of Fenway Park in their Essex, Vt., backyard, the field has helped raise money for charity and put smiles on the faces of those who visit it for nearly 15 years..
“Little Fenway” broke ground in September 2000 and officially opened on July 4, 2001. It has since played host to numerous charitable events, including the annual Travis Roy Foundation WIFFLE Ball Tournament, which raises money for spinal cord research. The tournament is about to enter its 14th year.
“(The event) is one of our marquee fundraisers, contributing nearly $3.5 million to help fund spinal cord research and provide adaptive equipment grants to spinal cord injury survivors,” says Roy, a former Boston University hockey player who was paralyzed from the neck down in an accident on the ice in 1995.
In recent years, Little Fenway has been plagued by drainage issues. Enter Wentworth. As partners with the Travis Roy Foundation, Wentworth community members jumped at the chance to help fix the field.
“Travis is such an inspirational figure in Boston,” says Erik Miller, director of the Center for Community and Learning Partnerships (CLP). “With the Institute’s shift to EPIC, our students have a great opportunity to positively transform the lives of individuals who do not have the same access to basic human needs through projects with the foundation.”
Civil engineering students and faculty, including Jerry Hopcroft and Vitaliy Saykin, as well as members of the CLP, traveled to Vermont last summer to build a viewing stand for spectators and install a new drainage function, including the construction of an expanded wetland on the site for improved surface water management.
“The work at Little Fenway is not serving just one individual, but every individual that the foundation serves,” Miller says.
Adds Roy, “To have students from Wentworth help build the new pavilion deck was a huge help. The event is 100-percent volunteer based, and having the skills and expertise from Wentworth was a great asset.” —Greg Abazorius