The Reds Community Fund, St. Elizabeth Healthcare and the Duke Energy Foundation teamed up for a one-day service project at Memorial Park and Lemker Field in Ludlow, Ky., Thursday. The volunteer project culminated with the grand opening of the Lemker pitch at St. Elizabeth Ball Park, celebrating a major renovation spanning more than two years.
More than 80 volunteers from organizations and the community worked on beautification projects, including painting the canoes, picnic shelter and skate park, planting and mulching around the park and preparing the ground baseball. Frisch’s Big Boy provided breakfast for the volunteers and the day ended with an official dedication in the field at 5 p.m. School.
Among the many local dignitaries, town officials and partners in attendance were Scott Smith, Ludlow Town Administrator and Chief of Police; Mike Borchers, Superintendent of Ludlow Independent Schools; Rhonda Whitaker Hurtt, vice president of community relations and economic development at Duke Energy; Karen Forgus, senior vice president of business operations for the Reds; and Garren Colvin, President and CEO of St. Elizabeth Healthcare.
Reds Community Fund Executive Director Charley Frank hosted the event, with Ludlow’s baseball and softball teams lining the field wearing specially designed baseball caps to commemorate the day.
“We found the model for this collaboration in northern Kentucky in 2019 during the Reds’ 150th anniversary,” Frank said. “When we originally decided to renovate a ballpark to celebrate this and one of the pitches we chose was on the Ohio side of St. Bernard, Reds President and COO Phil Castellini said, “You’re not going to build one court, you’re going to build two. Because you’re not going to celebrate without doing that in both Ohio and Kentucky, that’s the Reds way. And we ended up in Bellevue working with the Bellevue vets on a similar and exceptional project.
The project was first discussed in late 2019 when Ludlow athletic director and coach Dan Sullivan visited the P&G MLB Cincinnati Reds Youth Academy and talked about his vision with Frank and others. About 30 months later, Sullivan’s vision has become a reality.
“To be honest, when Dan emailed me with his vision, I kind of said, ‘OK, sure,'” Smith said. “I heard a lot of ideas, so I thought, ‘We’ll see what happens.’ I knew it was a big business and it was a lot of money and there were a lot of people involved in it Then we had meetings and COVID-19 hit but through all of this, the people here got together and still made it happen.
Duke Energy was one of the key players in both getting the project off the ground and bringing it to fruition. The Duke Energy Foundation provided financial support, and Duke Energy staff members volunteered throughout the day. Whitaker Hurtt, who lives nearby and often drives past Memorial Park, has been able to witness the transformation over the past few weeks.
“It’s the kind of meaningful project that really impacts a community, so we’re thrilled to be a part of it,” she said. “Our goal is to fuel the lives of our customers and the vitality of our communities. But when we go out and do these kinds of volunteer projects, that’s when our employees get really excited. When they can roll up their sleeves and be part of the community where they live and work.
St. Elizabeth also played a major role, with Colvin, a former Ludlow High School student-athlete, supporting the efforts, including helping with the finishing touches by getting their hands dirty with volunteers during the service day.
“I’m proud to work for an organization that gives back so much to our community, and I’m so proud to partner with Duke Energy and the Cincinnati Reds to bring something so special to this community that I love so much,” said Colvin said. .
The ceremony ended with a ribbon cutting and three ceremonial first pitches from Borchers, Colvin and Ludlow Mayor Josh Boone. Although Mother Nature ultimately did not allow the contest, there will be many other games that the Ludlow community will have the opportunity to enjoy at Lemker Field.
“It takes a village to pull off something like this,” Frank said. “It has been a joy for the Reds, the Reds Community Fund and our other partners to be part of this community of Ludlow and to see not only the leaders of the town, but also the people of the independent schools and the whole neighborhood coming together to make this possible. It really took everyone’s work, and that’s what makes it special. You can tell throughout the process what a very special community this is.