Volunteers beautify Nichol Park ahead of Soulful Softball Sunday

Volunteers beautify Nichol Park ahead of Soulful Softball Sunday
Rodney Alamo Brown paints the bleachers of the softball field at Nichol Park in Richmond on Tuesday, Aug. 21.

The softball field, bleachers and other structures at Nichol Park have received a volunteer-led renovation in recent days courtesy of the group that is set to hold another highly-anticipated Soulful Softball Sunday event on Aug 27.

On Tuesday, several volunteers led by community advocate Rodney Alamo Brown helped lay down a fresh coat of green paint over the bleachers at the softball field located at 3230 Macdonald Ave. Over the course of several days, volunteers have also weeded under the bleachers, hosed down the sheds and cleaned the bathrooms.

A big part of the effort is to ensure the community’s youth have an inviting park to play on, said Brown. Another reason for the beautification is to prepare for a Soulful Softball Sunday event that Brown co-founded along with Antwon Cloird, partly to allow a space for residents from all over Richmond to meet up and reminisce about using the park as kids.

“The essence of it is to rehash those memories and let everyone come back here and be their 8-year-old child again,” Brown said.

And with this youthful approach comes hope — another factor with a central focus at Soulful Softball Sunday. This weekend’s event, like previous events, will not only include free soul food but also a number of community resources including job connections, free health screenings, college admissions and financial literacy.

The event is dedicated to the late Landrin Kelly, who established the inner-city youth program, the Terrance Kelly Youth Foundation, which was formed in remembrance of his son Terrance Kelly, the De La Salle football star who was senselessly gunned down in Richmond in 2004 and whose story was recalled in the major motion picture, When The Game Stands Tall. The elder Kelly suffered an untimely death earlier this year. He is set to be celebrated with a lifetime achievement award and a proclamation by local elected officials.

Brown says advocates at Soulful Softball Sunday, led by former Oakland A’s legend Mike Norris in the commissioner’s role, will also begin petitioning the city to rename the softball diamond Landrin Kelly Field.

Soul food served Sunday will be catered by CJ’s Bar B Que & Big Bite Eatery, and live entertainment will come from DJs Ron & Alex as well as comedian “Tise the Beast.”

Pretty much everyone will end up going home with some kind of prize, Brown said. With the help of dozens of local sponsors, Soulful Softball Sunday is raffling off various prizes, including a trip to Las Vegas, suite accommodations at the Marriott Courtyard hotel, A’s and Giants tickets, $1,000 in raffled eatery gift cards, scholarship awards, free backpacks for kids while supplies last, and free Soulful Softball Sunday t-shirts, among other prizes.

The Sons of Issachar is also set to present a $500 community scholarship award to Akeli Nelson, the Kennedy High graduate and current freshmen at Hastings College in Nebraska who is pursuing a degree in early child development.

Several female leaders will also be honored as Strong Sisters for their charitable efforts that include volunteerism: Kathleen Sullivan, Bonnie Jackson, Dewanda Stewart, Stephanie Turner Aldridge, Menbere Aklilu, Pamela Saucer-Bilbo, Tamisha Torres, Diane Becton and Pamela Price.

Special invited guests include fast-rising poet and former Richmond Poet Laureate Dont’e Clark, Antron Gregroy, the manager to the late rap legend Tupac Shakur and Executive Producers Calvin Babez Nunley and Charles Fuller.

“The event is meant to unite the community in a positive, fun and active way,” Brown said. “The main purpose is to educate the community on important issues such as education health and wellness.”