‘There is nothing more American’

‘There is nothing more American’

Bring your dogs to the next Miracle game

Published in Sanibel Captiva Islander July 22, 2015 issue

Baseball fans and their four-legged friends are invited to attend the next Miracle baseball game this Friday at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers.

Illy and Lucy.

Illy and Lucy

“There is nothing more American than baseball and bringing your dog out to the game,” Bill Levy, director of ticket operations and sales advisor for Fort Myers Miracle, said.

This Friday’s game, July 24, at 7:05 p.m. against the Tampa Yankees, marks the fourth “Dog Daze of Summer” program offered at the stadium. The final and fifth program offered this summer will be held on Friday, Aug. 14.

The program is a promotion Fort Myers Miracle began that has really taken off over the years. Levy said they are averaging anywhere from 150 to 200 dogs ranging from small to large each game. He said some people bring two or three dogs with them.

Illy and Lucy

Illy and Lucy

“This year we have seen a jump of (fans) taking their dogs to the game. It has seen growth every year the team has done it,” he said. “It’s probably one of our most anticipated programs. It has become a staple here. People look forward to it.”

Although there are no restrictions for the fan’s dogs, Levy said they ask that all dogs are kept on a leash, are well-behaved and not aggressive towards other dogs and fans. He said they want the dogs to complement the family-friendly atmosphere that Fort Myers Miracle offers.

The July 24 game will feature the Lee County Domestic Animal Service and its food drive. Attendees are asked to bring donations of dry and canned dog food, cat littler, wipes, tissues and paper towels. Levy said anyone that brings a donation will receive $2 off general admission tickets the day of the game.

Pet friendly vendors also will be present during the Friday game. Levy said Glamour Paws, Pet Supermarket and Invisible Fence are among some of the businesses that will be in attendance.



All American Pet Resort will have its mascot at the game and kiddie pools will be set up around Hammond Stadium for the dogs to splash in and cool off.

Andrea Miller with the Sanibel Recreation Center said they always try to pull together at least one activity a month for the community to enjoy. For the month of July they decided to provide tickets at the center for the “Dog Daze of Summer” Miracle Game this Friday.

“They give us a group discount rate,” she said, adding that residents and tourists can “come here and pick them up.”

Tickets, which are $9.75 for adults and children, are available at the Sanibel Recreation Center through Wednesday, July 22, or while supplies last.

The Sanibel Recreation Center is located at 3880 Sanibel-Captiva Road. For more information, call (239) 472-0345.



Levy encourages everyone, whether they enjoy baseball or not, to attend the game.

“This is just a fun event for everyone,” he said. “People seem to be more in a good mood when they are around dogs and animals. They have an extra step to them when people are around animals. (Animals) tend to bring out the best in people.”

Levy said the baseball players also get involved in the festivities while taking pictures with their fan’s dogs.

Tickets purchased at the stadium the night of the game are $8 for general admission and $10 for box seats.

A life forever changed

When I worked at the Pine Island Eagle as the editor, a musician on the island, Kip, shared a story he thought I might be interested in, which of course I was.

Kip reached out to me again. At the beginning of March, he asked if I was doing freelance work and then told me of an inspiring story, one he thought I would be interested in writing.

“I wrote you because I know your passion for writing,” Kip told me. “Of all the writers I know, you take writing seriously and do it well.”

That inspiring story, was the same one I shared in the Eagle, but this time with more information.

So, here is the inspiring story of his brother:

Jay Lawrence was a high school jock, earning the most valuable player his junior year at Cape Coral High School before continuing on to college to pursue baseball.

A year after he began college, he started working for a friend of his father’s in Cape Coral, Florida at 20-years-old. After working for the business and learning how to use machines for cabinet manufacturing, three months later he was offered a 25 percent profit share to run the store in a new location, West Palm Beach.

Britain Wood Working was opened.

“The fourth month that we were there, 21 days before my 21st birthday I fell asleep,” Jay said.

He fell asleep behind the wheel of his truck at 2 a.m. August 3, 1996, when he flipped it.

“I remember waking up and my head was stuck,” Jay continued, adding that he was trying to pull himself out before blacking out again. “I remember them putting me into a helicopter and asking a guy if anyone else was hurt.”

When Jay woke again, he was in the hospital.

Jay, although wasn’t drinking, went out to the bars with a few friends that night. He said it had been a long day, waking up early, working all day, and then going out that night.

The accident had broke Jay’s neck at the C5, 6 level, which left him paralyzed from his mid chest down.

“I can move my arms, but I can’t use my triceps and can’t open and close my hands,” he said.

Jay was transferred back to Fort Myers on August 24.

“You are used to the first 20 years of your life,” he said, which drastically changed after the accident.

Now everything is somewhat of a challenge for the now 39-year-old.

Although a nurse visits him at his home in the morning and evening, things he would take for granted, such as a simple task of getting out of bed to get something to eat if he was hungry, before his accident, now has to wait until the nurse visits again.

Although faced with new obstacles, Jay pushed on and decided to help others who have also experienced the same injuries.

“He is now 39 and has been a quadriplegic for almost 20 years, but has a zest for life rarely seen,” Kip wrote to me.

This man, continues touching the world, all from his wheelchair.

After the accident, Jay started a chapter of the Buoniconti Fund, a project to cure paralysis, in Southwest Florida, which is no longer active.

He decided he wanted to form his own organization instead.

In 2009, he began Hands Up Charity. The charity helps getting equipment and supplies for people that need them and do not have the means to purchase them. Jay said they have provided such items as electric wheelchairs, manual wheelchairs, adaptive bikes and an assortment of medical equipment.

For more information, visit: http://www.facebook.com/pages/HANDS-UP-CHARITY/166458918338.

Jay said they are always looking for donations, so they can continue the organizations efforts.

With his organization slowly getting up and running, he started working at a new job.

In 2008, Jay began working part-time as a sales representative for the Florida Stingrays Arena Team before becoming the sales manager. Once the owners of the team were let go, Jay became the general manager.

“I wanted to figure out a way to make it come back after the owners were gone,” he said of the team.

The Florida Stingrays football organization is a semi-pro football team that is comprised of 45 players. The games are held at Rutenberg Park in Fort Myers. The organization hopes to move to some of the high school fields in the near future. The Stingrays travel north to Tampa for games and as far south as Miami.

Now the team is doing really well, with a 6-1 record this year.

“We are marching towards the playoffs,” he said.

About six year’s ago, Jay began thinking of ways to further make the team successful, which are slowly coming to fruition.

Jay said he is working towards launching a few programs for the Stingray team, one in which resembles the Green Bay Packers organization, which has been publicly owned as a nonprofit corporation since 1923. Jay said lawyers are working on documentation, so they can apply for Florida law, giving the community an opportunity to become shareholders of the team.

Jay said there will be 10,000 shares available at $100 per share.

“The community will be able to come in and be part of the team and be able to vote,” he said. “The team will not have an owner per say.”

This new program, will provide an opportunity to take the team to the next level; therefore offering insurance for the players and opportuntiies for them to further their education. Jay said he wants to provide the opportunity for the players to further their education at a local college, university, tech or trade school.

Another program includes, “Sponsor a Future Stingray Program,” allowing businesses in the community to sponsor kids for $25.  He said it is important to give kids access to meet the players.

“We want them to be mentors, provide a positive role model for kids with the community,” Jay said of the players.

In either May or June, “The Journey Man,” a documentary about the Stingray football team will be released.

For more information about the Stingrays, visit: http://www.facebook.com/floridastingraysfootball or http://floridastingrays.wix.com/floridastingrays.

Jay’s story just goes to show that wonderful things can happen, as long as you push on and make the most of  your life.