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In memory of Christina Rehkop

Last week, we sadly lost our dear friend and colleague, Christina Rehkop. Her life's work, both personally and professionally, was making the world better. As Devon Energy's director of community relations, Christina's bold vision and innovative spirit transformed how the company engaged with communities. She was known for dreaming big, challenging the status quo and bringing others along to make change happen. She was a wonderful friend to the Ripken Foundation and was instrumental in our partnership with Devon Energy which allowed us to install over 150 STEM Centers and grow our STEM Center program in underserved elementary and middle schools across the country. We are deeply saddened by this tragic personal and professional loss and will always remember her for sharing kindness, having a strong commitment to community, and for her great smile and beautiful spirit. Christina was a loyal friend, revered colleague, beloved daughter, cherished wife, and devoted mother who will be greatly missed. Christina is survived by her husband, Brandon and her children, Carson and Emily.

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Building Futures, Changing Lives: The Transformative Impact of Youth Development Parks

February 10, 2024

Within the tight-knit community of Phillipsburg, New Jersey is a new opportunity for underserved youth to participate in healthy, positive team sports with the groundbreaking of a Youth Development Park - an emblem of collaboration between local community members and the unwavering support of McWane Ductile. This Park stands as a testament to the power of partnership, creating an inclusive space poised to empower youth with opportunities for growth, recreation, and community building. The Park stands as a symbol of collective dedication to fostering a brighter future for the young hearts of Phillipsburg.
phillipsburgThis new multipurpose, state-of-the-art synthetic turf field will accommodate football, baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse, and field hockey teams year-round as well as many other regional tournaments and community events, while programs will be overseen by the Town of Phillipsburg. This full-size synthetic turf field will provide a safe environment that fosters social, educational, and recreational interactions between at-risk youth and caring adult mentors, and will also be a clean, supportive space for other adults, youth, and children in and around Phillipsburg. 
Walter’s Park, home to the future McWane Field, is in the heart of Phillipsburg and within walking or biking distance for all the local kids who will use it, including a large number of kids from the town’s two housing projects. The current ballfield has been in use since the 1920s and has served as home to over 600 youth soccer players, 250 youth baseball players, and 200 male Spanish soccer league players.  Dr. James Brennan, Co-Chairman of the Ripken Foundation Youth Development Park Project Committee, believes that “creating a beautiful, state-of-the-art, multi-purpose facility hosting a wide range of sporting events and recreational activities for the children of our community will undoubtedly have a revitalizing effect on youth sports and recreation in our town.” 
Brennan first got involved with the project in October 2022 when he was approached by life-long friend Jeff Finegan, a local business owner. Both the Finegan and Brennan families have roots in Phillipsburg that go back more than 100 years.. “After researching the Ripken Foundation, I was highly impressed by their mission and the great work they do,” said Brennan. “My only hesitation about getting involved was that possibility of a Ripken Youth Development Park here in Phillipsburg seemed almost too good to be true.” Brennan took an active role in creating and leading the committee that helped make this park possible. The committee was able to quickly form willing partnerships with the Phillipsburg Mayor, Town Council, Recreation Department, Police Department and School District, the Firth Youth Center, Norwescap, TapInto Phillipsburg, and a number of major donors and community stakeholders. 
The most prominent and impactful partnership for this project is lead donor McWane Ductile, who donated a generous $1 million gift to this project. “This is the single largest private citizen donation in the history of our town,” said Brennan. “This amazing investment in the youth of Phillipsburg would not have been possible without the generosity of the McWane family and the great reputation of the Ripken Foundation. As I look into the future, our partnership with the Ripken Foundation, its mission, and the power and reputation of the Ripken Family brand, I firmly believe that we will attract and generate more opportunities to help our kids grow, develop and succeed.”
Inside Sales Manager at McWane Ductile Kelly Bray first heard about the field project through the Town Council President Harry Wyant, who was given the original proposal for consideration and approval. “Our Foundry has been a part of Phillipsburg since 1856, even before the town was founded. Many residents and their relatives have worked and still work here,” said Bray. She continued, “It is important for us to give back to the community that has supported us for generations and help drive changes that have a lasting impact on the town.”ydp
Phillipsburg has many organizations that are focused on the revitalization of the downtown area, but they are limited by funding and support, making success difficult. Because this Park is centrally located to Phillipsburg’s most disadvantaged communities, we will provide a safe outdoor space critical for social and economic growth for the areas with the highest need. “Not only will it bring new activities and programs for our local youth, but the recognition of being the first Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation Youth Development Park in New Jersey and the positive message that sends will hopefully draw new families and business to the area and help stimulate the local economy,” said Bray.
The founder of McWane Ductile, James Ransom McWane, began a charitable legacy that continues to this day. McWane, Inc. and its family of companies give millions of dollars annually to various community and charitable causes, focusing on benefiting the communities where their facilities are located, many in disadvantaged areas. “Knowing that the Ripken foundation is aligned with our core values provides a common ground to work on projects that build better futures for our communities,” said Bray. “We are looking forward to the difference we can make together!”
The future of these Youth Development Parks holds immense promise for fostering positive change in underserved communities across the country. These spaces not only provide vital recreational opportunities for youth, but also serve as a catalyst for growth, nurturing essential life skills and fostering a sense of community. As we look ahead, continued investment in these parks stand poised to empower countless young lives, bridging gaps and unlocking potential, ensuring a brighter and more equitable future for all.

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  • Reach and Impact

    Reach & Impact

    In 2023-24, the Ripken Foundation collaborated with 824 local youth-serving partners and law enforcement agencies in 331 cities and towns in 43 states, Washington, D.C., and U.S. Virgin Islands to impact over 1.4 million at-risk youth. The Ripken Foundation Portal, which gives mentors access to our program curriculum guides, impacted 495,252 of those at-risk youth. In addition, we now have 444 STEM Centers completed in 23 states giving nearly 179,815 kids the early exposure and hands-on opportunity to explore Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

  • Mentoring

    Mentoring

    In 2023, 25,869 coaches, law enforcement officers, teachers, volunteers, and other youth mentors worked with the kids in our programs. Badges for Baseball, our signature crime prevention and mentoring program, impacted 30,289 kids in 122 communities.

  • Youth Development Parks

    Youth Development Parks

    We’re adding more of our signature Youth Development Parks every year—creating safe places to play and renewing community pride.

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Testimonials

We love to hear how the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation has positively impacted the lives of our mentors and at-risk youth. If you have a positive experience with the Foundation that you would like to share, please submit a story. You might be featured below or on our social media outlets!

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    Ernie Graham

    I remember meeting Ernie Graham on the second day of the CRSF Summer Camp and listening to the story he told us about how he went from rags to riches to rags. I can honestly say that the summer camp was the reason I came back to school and decided to become a smart athlete.

    Cornell Powell
    Former Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation Summer Camp Participant
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    kids with cop shield

    The Badges for Baseball program was a 100% law enforcement participation program and the kids that participated were at-risk kids who would never speak or communicate with the police. That has changed drastically, these kids now run up to the police cruisers and they want to talk to the police.

    Sgt. Randy Shaw
    Stafford County, Virginia
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    kids playing quickball

    The Badges for Baseball program has yielded results that were unforeseen.  The relationships made will be lifelong and the Green Bay Police Department is eager to continue on with the program.

    Officer Kevin Warych
    Green Bay Police Department
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    kids, baseball glove on head

    This CRSF camp trip was packed with “first’s” for most of the members that joined me: it was the first time these members traveled out of state and for some, the first time at a baseball camp. Although the camp was loaded with memories, what stuck with my group of boys the most was the bonding they had with our roommates after all the activities were done.

    BJ Kolb
    Boys and Girls Club of Green Bay
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    kids with cops

    I can remember back to my first day in the Badges for Baseball program. The police officers were amazing, coming out to all the practices and games. They had a big influence on me, and because of them, I am now studying to become a police officer at Fox Valley Tech in Appleton, Wisconsin. It wouldn’t have been possible without Badges for Baseball. 

    Alex Steward
    Former Badges for Baseball Participant
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    cop with four kids

    I have seen students come out of their shells, they are answering questions, they are building relationships with police officers and it is a very positive program in the schools.

    Tricia Winkler
    Principal, Lima South Science-Technology Magnet
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    kids, joyous arms raised

    Although our gym can be quite chaotic during the Badges for Baseball program, it has been rewarding to see the kids practice sportsmanship and leadership during games. I've had multiple students ask me, ‘Can we come back every day?’ It's questions like those that make all the chaos worthwhile.

    Carrie Marsh
    Mentor, Y of Central Maryland
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