The second 21 Days Of Clemente forum took place yesterday at Applebee’s in the South Bronx. The event began with Danny Torres, Coordinator of the event welcoming those who attended and explained the history of the event. Mr. Torres then introduced Mr. Julio Pabón, President of Latino Sports and sponsor of the annual gathering.
Mr. Pabón thanked everyone for attending an activity in the middle of December when they probably had a lot of holiday related chores to do, yet took time to be present for this event honoring Roberto Clemente.
He went on to explain details of what Clemente did during this exact period forty years ago to help the earthquake victims in Nicaragua that eventually resulted in the December 31st plane crash that took his life. “Roberto Clemente was the initiator of the word “humanitarian” on and off the field and that is why we do these events every year at this time and why we support the Retire 21 Campaign,” he told those in attendance.
Mr. Pabón then introduced the feature presenter of the evening, Ms. Frances Rodríguez, Executive Director of the Roberto Clemente State Park. Ms. Rodriguez gave details of the park that she has managed for close to a decade. The park has many sports facilities and offers a variety of programs to the community that gets approximately a million visit’s a year from people close and far. Ms. Rodríguez explained how the park opened in 1973 as the Harlem River Park and was renamed after Clemente.
Ms. Rodriguez also explained how the park had suffered a lot of damage due to Hurricane Sandy something that was surprising to everyone in attendance since there had been no news reports on this issue. Ms. Rodríguez stated, “We had about three feet of water that damaged trucks, arts and crafts materials, mats and many other park equipment.” She went on to state that they have applied to FEMA for assistance and that she is optimistic that they will receive the funds necessary to restore much of the equipment and programs. She also stated how proud she was of the staff and the commissioner herself for the physical work they all did to restore basic park services in a week.
She also shared a personal story about a recent trip she took to Nicaragua where she met a Nicaraguan lady who did not know much about Clemente, but who experienced the earthquake in Managua (the capital) and lost a relative in the destruction. Hearing the woman made her realize the value of what Clemente did as he never seem to want to get major publicity, but basically to help those in need.
Ms. Rodríguez ended her presentation by inviting everyone to visit the park and to stay tuned to something “really nice” that might be happening this summer with a statue. She gave no details and kept everyone in suspense. She also agreed to work in next years 21 Days Of Clemente activities by getting some of the youth that attend park events to participate in the arts aspect of the 21 Days that offers Bronx students opportunity to win presents and Yankee & Mets tickets. She also agreed to display the student’s work at the park.