(Toms River) – As the Toms River Field of Dreams gets closer to becoming a reality when it opens its doors this fall, it will become the only recreational facility in New Jersey designed and created specifically for individuals with disabilities. The fully-accessible, three-acre outdoor complex will feature a variety of athletic and recreational amenities and will even include a community garden with a unique purpose.
“Having a special plot for a community garden was such a great opportunity for the Ocean County Health Department (OCHD) to provide individuals with disabilities a special opportunity to break down many of the barriers, decrease disparities and feel a sense of belonging – all in a healthy, positive and fun environment,” explained Daniel Regenye, OCHD Public Health Coordinator/Health Officer. “We are very proud to have a part in the Toms River Field of Dreams Complex that will offer a wealth of benefits of inclusivity among for people of all ages.”
“The community garden at the Toms River Field of Dreams Complex will provide opportunities for social interaction, growing healthy relationships, and learning how to incorporate fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs into one’s diet through the guidance of the OCHD’s nutritionists,” added Patty High, OCHD Assistant Public Health Coordinator. “Gardeners will grow a delicious assortment of produce including berries, potatoes, corn, bell peppers and so much more.”
Inclusive Gardening: Cultivating Health for All – Besides the community garden, the OCHD will also be creating healthy opportunities for group nutrition, fitness education, and physical activity programming, as well as chronic disease screening services, counseling, and referrals. This programming promotes social interactions, motor skill development, regular attendance, and community involvement among individuals with disabilities and will incorporate peer leaders from pre-vocational training programs to maintain inclusion and buy-in from the populations being served. In fact, people with disabilities will be included in all phases of this project through the involvement of our partners and their participants. These efforts will improve inclusivity as well as the overall well-being of individuals with disabilities in Ocean County and will lead to an otherwise unused piece of land being developed into a much needed inclusive environment.
“As one of several project partners, the Ocean County Health Department (OCHD) is really excited about its role in constructing and utilizing an inclusive community garden for the Toms River Field of Dreams Complex that will ultimately help integrate children and adults with disabilities into their community,” said Gerry P. Little, Ocean County Commissioner and Liaison to the Ocean County Board of Health.
The team for this project consists of governmental agencies, organizations serving and advocating for individuals with disabilities, agricultural experts, and individuals from the population being served. Just some of the specific organizations include the Toms River Field of Dreams, Ocean County Department of Human Services Office of Individuals with Disabilities, Toms River United Sustainability Team, Allies Inc., The Arc Ocean County Chapter, and LADACIN Network, among others.