Park to get helping hand from golfers

Every year, Russ Lovell of San Luis Obispo and a group of friends get together for a friendly golf tournament.

From time to time, the friends have talked about attaching a charity to their game, but the idea didn’t gain traction until this year, when Lovell met Paul Ready at a friend’s wedding and heard about Jack’s Helping Hand.

“I said, ‘Do you guys do a golf tournament?’ and he said, ‘We hadn’t thought about that,’ ” Lovell recalled.

The inaugural Golf to Benefit Others charity golf tournament will be Sept. 28 at Monarch Dunes in Nipomo.

The event is geared to raise money and awareness for Jack Ready Imagination Park, a universally accessible park to be built in Nipomo in honor of 3-year-old Jack Ready, who died of a rare form of brain cancer in 2004.

Jack’s parents, Paul and Bridget Ready, founded the nonprofit organization in memory of their son. Jack’s Helping Hand assists children with unmet physical, mental and medical needs.

Plans for a park where all children, regardless of disability, could play have been in the works for more than seven years. Jack’s uncle and aunt, Nick and Kathy Tompkins, donated the approximately 30 acres on Illinois Way to the county in 2005.

Since then, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors has approved a 99-year lease and waived permit fees for the park. The county Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit in April 2011, and Paul Ready hopes work on the first phase will start in the spring.

The first phase, which is estimated to cost about $2.5 million, will include a universally accessible playground, parking, picnic and barbecue facilities, a grass playing field and bluff trail, Ready said. Two other phases are planned to add playing courts and an equestrian therapy facility.

The county’s parks commission has recommended the Board of Supervisors use $500,000 in park fees paid by residential developments toward construction of the park, said parks director Curtis Black.

Parks commissioners on Sept. 27 will also consider asking the board to use some of the fees collected when new subdivisions are created.

As he learned more about plans for the park, Lovell, senior vice president of San Luis Obispo-based IOS Telecom, was touched by its purpose. His two sons are now in college, but he remembered how, as children, he took them to baseball and soccer and other activities.

But children with disabilities may not have the same opportunities, and that’s why the park is so important, Lovell said.

“It will be a place where kids with physical limitations will go with their families and they can then talk and share,” he said.

Over the past few months, Lovell and a group of volunteers have organized the tournament, found sponsors and devised a strategy to bring in even more money by creating a website where families and friends of golfers can donate to their teams.

The event is hosted by Blue Rooster Telecom, where Lovell’s wife, Cheryl, is vice president.

Spots in the tournament are still available. For more information, go to http://golftbo.com or call Russ Lovell at 540-5248. To donate to an individual or team, go to www.crowdrise.com/GolfTBO. To learn more about Jack’s Helping Hand, go to www.jackshelpinghand.org.

Cynthia Lambert and Gayle Cuddy write the South County Beat column on alternating Wednesdays. Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.