Field Of Dreams Real at Chianese Park
Local dad finds a way to bring back summer fun for Barrington youngsters.
Wednesday was a perfect summer day. A clear blue sky stretched out on all sides of the playing field and courts at Chianese Memorial Park on Centennial Road.
And much like childhoods of decades ago, kids played pickup games of kickball, field hockey and basketball; played on the jungle gym, or joined in a simple game of tag.
No, this isn't the setting for a nostalgic about-childhood movie being filmed in Barrington. It's a very real dream come true for a Barrington dad, his wife, and his childhood best friend.
Sean Booker and his best friend, Rob Mueller, grew up in Barrington -- kindred spirits who enjoyed playing ball at the neighborhood park and getting into the sort of mischief that makes the best stories to tell the grandchildren.
Earlier this year, Booker, who owns a construction company, and his wife, Jen Colaneri, a teacher in East Providence, began talking with friends about the lack of commitment-free activities for kids over the summer. Booker and Colaneri have two children, daughter Cassidy, 13, and son Cohen, 10.
"We were talking to other parents and we wondered what had happened to the fun stuff we got to do when we were kids," said Booker. "The summer now seems to be about lots of camps, and lots of year-round sporting commitments."
"Kids don't just go to the playground anymore," added Mueller. "They schedule a playdate."
Booker said he spoke with 10 parents in town to see how they might feel about a weekly opportunity for their kids to get together with others and play.
"Out of those ten people, ten responded positively," he said.
Confessing to a great fondness for recess as a kid, Booker said, he equates the Wednesday morning play time to "a two-hour recess" with no pressure on the kids to play any particular game.
Although Booker, Colaneri and Mueller provide sporting gear, the play is kid-directed and participants are welcome to bring their own gear.
Booker explained that last week one of the kids, whose dad works at Hasbro, brought along a bunch of Nerf blasters and the kids had a great time playing with those. The week before that, he said, the kids spent the whole time between 9 and 11 am playing 'pickle', and 'capture the flag'.
"It's about the kids' vision of fun," said Booker.
"At the beginning of the summer, the kids were a little unsure at first," he said. "But then they realized they could play and have fun however they wanted."
Mueller said they have seen the numbers of kids attending on Wednesdays rise steadily over the summer -- with about 20 to 30 kids of middle-school age turning up fairly regularly and more arriving weekly as word has gotten around.
Although next Wednesday is the final week of the "two-hour recess", the two best friends and Colaneri have plans to offer the fun and games next year as well.