Tradewinds Services CEO Jon Gold, Tradewinds Services Director of Development & Marketing Lisa Tatina, Bridges of Possibilities CEO/Executive Director Paula Simpson, Salvi Sports President Brian Lyter and Gary SouthShore RailCats General Manager Brian Flenner headlined a group of over 40 people who participated in the ribbon cutting ceremony and press conference on Wednesday.
“Sometime last July or August David Kerr [RailCats Director of Marketing & Promotions] passed along the idea to turn the security room into a sensory room,” said Lyter. “As conversations progressed with Lisa and Jon at Tradewinds, we zeroed in on the idea that it might make sense to expand our partnership and have them guide us in putting together the sensory room.”
David Kerr, also known as “Chomps” by RailCats fans and employees, is usually known for putting together creative marketing and promotional strategies to augment fan entertainment at the Steel Yard. However, Kerr saw a potential therapeutic space in a room that was essentially nonexistent prior to being turned into the Tradewinds Sensory Room.
“The Cleveland Cavaliers debuted a sensory room a few years ago and it opened my eyes,” said Kerr. “Baseball brings all sorts of people together and the idea that we had a subset of fans who might only be able to come for two or three innings because of sensory issues didn’t feel right.”
Simpson is a Registered/Licensed Occupational Therapist, holds a Masters in Health Administration, and has over 18 years of specialized training in pediatric and geriatric population. She helped designed the space after meeting Flenner for the first time at a Crossroads Chambers meeting back in January.
“I asked him [Flenner] if the RailCats had a special needs night and that’s when we started talking about how the RailCats were getting ready to develop a sensory room,” said Simpson. “I told Brian my background and told him if they [the RailCats] need any suggestions or help getting the room in place to just let me know.”
The Tradewinds Sensory Room is far from just a playroom with plastic toys and balls. The designated therapeutic space features a combination of light blue and light green paint on the walls to instill a calming effect, light filters to accommodate those with visually over stimulation sensitivities, padded flooring, sound proof walls, bright colored blocks, toys and books for kids to entertain themselves with and two sets of couches to lay down on.
“The design of the room is to promote and facilitate a calming environment,” said Simpson. “It’s to escape the over stimulation visually and auditory that way they can come to a sensory calming room.
Even though the RailCats home opener isn’t until Tuesday, May 21 vs. the Sioux City Explorers, the Tradewinds Sensory Room has already been utilized for its intended purpose. During the RailCats last exhibition home game on Monday, May 13 vs. the Chicago Dogs, a young boy was emotionally distraught alongside his mother and was asked by a pair of RailCats employees if the two would like to see a special room (the Tradewinds Sensory Room). Sure enough, the young boy, accompanied by his mother, spent 15 minutes in the Tradewinds Sensory Room playing with plastic toys and inflatable balls and he was able to return to his designated seat and enjoy the rest of the game after regathering his emotions.
“Noah [Simmons] and I saw the pair in need and realized we had been working on a space that could be an ideal solution for this type of situation,” said RailCats Director of Sales Dan Faulkner. “It was extremely gratifying to be able to help them enjoy their time at the Steel Yard and create a lasting memory.”
The RailCats and Tradewinds partnership remains stronger than ever and has the potential to expand even more so in the future. “It’s been a great partnership and something we’re really glad to be part of,” said Tatina. “The most important thing is being able to help anybody with special needs. If they’re out here and a train comes by or if there’s fireworks, there’s now a room they can go to calm down, and then go back out to the festivities.”
The Tradewinds Sensory Room will be open for all 50 RailCats home games and is encouraged to be used throughout the entire season.
Gary opens the 2019 regular season on Friday, May 17 in Rosemont, Ill., against the Chicago Dogs at Impact Field. The RailCats home opener at U.S. Steel Yard is on Tuesday, May 21 vs. the Sioux City Explorers. Tuesday’s home opener features a free magnet schedule giveaway, presented by Northwest Indiana Orthopedic and Spine Center at Methodist Hospitals, and Post-Game Fireworks. Tuesday’s home opener is also Gary Community Night, presented by Fifth Third Bank, and is the first Taco Tuesday and Community HealthNet Health Centers Tuesday of the season.
Ticket packages for the 2019 Gary SouthShore RailCats season are available online at www.railcatsbaseball.com and can also be purchased by calling the RailCats ticket line at (219) 882-BALL. The RailCats box office is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.