Dreams do come true. And those who believed that, someday, the SYA Fields of Dreams would become a reality were rewarded Saturday with the opening of three new fields.
THE TWO rectangular fields — for lacrosse, football and soccer — and one baseball field, initially for T-ball, are the first of the fields to come to fruition on SYA's 116-acre site. It's off Bull Run Post Office Road in Centreville, and SYA plans to eventually have a total of 11 fields there as part of a huge, youth sports complex.
And Saturday, the man whose dream it was from the beginning — former SYA President George Chernesky — beamed as the ribbon was cut and children headed to the new fields to play.
"I believed," he said. "I was determined to help the kids of this community obtain the quality playing fields they deserved to play on. I enlisted everyone's support I could and, in the end, this will become a jewel for the community and the county. I sincerely believe that, and I'm glad I could contribute to opening day and could see some of the people who helped make this possible."
Chernesky served many years as SYA president, putting in thousands of volunteer hours to benefit this youth sports organization that has some 16,000 participants. He and his wife Cheryl moved to Kingsport, Tenn., two years ago, after George retired from the federal government.
But they returned Saturday morning for the ceremony, which attracted everyone from children in their team uniforms to local, state and national politicians. And Chernesky was pleased that the boys and girls will have safe fields to play on, thereby minimizing injuries.
"I think it's fantastic," he said. "This is the first phase of many, and the start of something good."
U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III called it a wonderful day and presented current SYA President Gary Flather with an American flag that he'd had flown over the U.S. Capitol in commemoration. Said Davis: "It's a tremendous accomplishment to get these fields reserved and developed out there."
FLATHER THEN introduced Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully). "He's been an absolute, wonderful supporter of this project since George developed it, nine years ago," said Flather. "And he assured that these kids would have an adequate place to play."
Flather said children need places where they can be busy, active and happy, and SYA provides "one avenue for that." But, he added, if there aren't enough fields, not as many children get to participate.
Frey said Saturday's event proved "what GMU's basketball team is proving right now — that dreams come true — not only in sports, but in life. And that's what we want to teach young people — that you can never reach too high. That's why I'm such a huge supporter of youth sports, because of the lessons it teaches, keeping kids out of trouble and teaching them to be productive adults."
He said Chernesky was the "man with the vision" and many others helped to make it a reality. "It's been my pleasure to contribute in some small way," said Frey. "And I'll look forward to an awful lot of nice Saturdays and Sundays out here with kids playing ball."
Sen. Jay O' Brien (R-39th) brought a plaque containing a congratulatory resolution from the Virginia Senate, and he presented it on behalf of himself, Del. Tim Hugo (R-40th), Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (R-37th) and Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis (R-34th).
"My wife and I have five children, and we've been involved in SYA from the get-go — for 81 seasons," said Clifton resident O'Brien. "And I've coached four seasons of soccer. So we're committed to SYA. My 12-year-old is playing lacrosse at E.C. Lawrence Park, as we speak, and he said he wouldn't know what to do without sports. It gives you the competitive spirit, and I thank SYA and all the coaches for making it all possible."
Cuccinelli said not only does it take "perseverance and vision, but participation, to bring off something like this successfully. It's an example for people all over the region, and I hope it'll continue to bear fruit in the future with more fields and more success. So good luck and God bless."
MEANWHILE, Hugo said he was excited to be there Saturday "as a dad. [SYA office manager] Alice Putman just signed up two of my kids to play T-ball and softball."
Calling the Fields of Dreams "probably the largest sports-complex project by a nonprofit group in Northern Virginia," Flather said, "We're putting in a lot of work to make sure this thing goes fast forward now." However, he warned everyone that "the roads [leading to it] are narrow and winding, so we ask you to take extra precaution. Drive slowly and safely, and show everybody you know what it takes to be a good neighbor."
Flather also thanked two SYA families who'd both lost sons and had memorial donations made to the Fields of Dreams in their honor. One family was Joel and Linda Barefoot, who were SYA volunteers for many years. After their son C.J. died, contributions in his name raised $4,000 for the Fields of Dreams.
Ron Clements and LeEtta Adamson also lost their son Chad, a former SYA ballplayer. He was drafted to play major-league baseball, but his life was cut short in a tragic motorcycle accident in May 2002. Donations in Chad Clements' name raised almost $6,000 for the Fields of Dreams, and one of the fields will be named after him and a bronze plaque will be erected there on a pedestal.
Adamson thanked the community for the contributions and said it was wonderful to "finally see [the Fields of Dreams] come through." Ron Clements said they were delighted for the community and pleased that "SYA provided the [athletic] opportunity for Chad and his brothers, Brad and Bryce, because they played for many years."