One of Iowa Veterans Home Commandant Matthew Peterson’s favorite aspects of his job is hearing from local individuals and businesses who approach him with one simple question — how can we help?
Brooks Dechant, a Navy veteran from the Cedar Rapids area who works for Quaker Oats, is one of those people, and although he said he doesn’t have a strong personal connection to IVH other than the fact that he’s a veteran himself, he wanted to help other vets however he could.
Through Quaker’s Valor group, which assists with various veteran related causes and has funded several Eastern Iowa Honor Flights, Dechant is leading the effort to rebuild and revitalize the baseball field on the IVH campus. According to Dechant, the group has raised money for IVH in the past, but none of the members had actually visited until recently.
“This year, we just decided to go up there, meet with them and see what the place is all about,” he said. “Matt (Peterson) gave us a tour, gave us a presentation, talked about the rich history and tradition, and it was just amazing. It’s right in our backyard, and we didn’t even know about it — didn’t know about all the history of it.”
During the meeting, Peterson mentioned how residents have been locked down throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and were looking for more activities now that restrictions are finally being eased. From there, he suggested restoring the field to its former glory and again hosting Little League games so residents would have some entertainment.
When Dechant took the idea back to Valor, the excitement was overwhelming, as many of the members have young kids of their own.
“It was the easiest sell of any initiative that we’ve done so far, so we quickly got onboard with it,” Dechant said.
The project itself is still in the early developmental phases, but both Dechant and Peterson can’t wait to see what comes of it. A long-term goal is to host a major youth tournament at the field to celebrate the reopening and to pour concrete to give it more of an amphitheater feeling.
“As we move past the pandemic phase of COVID, I am eager to restore and revitalize our relationship with the community. Through the generosity and selflessness of Quaker Oats, our baseball field will be restored, and our residents, their families, and the community of Marshalltown will once again be able to enjoy watching baseball games together on our beautiful and historic campus,” Peterson said. “I cannot overstate the depth of my gratitude to Quaker Oats for their commitment to Iowa’s veterans, and I am excited to welcome the community back to their Iowa Veterans Home.”
Fundraising for the project will be an ongoing task, but Dechant said Valor already has some money in reserves that hasn’t been allocated yet. Additionally, some of the maintenance staff at Quaker have been able to lend their abilities in fabricating foul poles, and the lawn care contractor for the Quaker plant has agreed to donate field care equipment.
The plan is to have a work day at the field sometime in the future, and Dechant has reached out to quarries around Marshalltown for rock. An order has also been placed for bases, a line chalker and other equipment.
“The best part about it is when I call these local Marshalltown businesses, the people that I speak with are like ‘Wow, what a great project. I remember playing Little League baseball there,'” Dechant said.
The restoration won’t happen overnight, but Dechant and his team are happy to get the process started while still planning some fundraisers further into the future like a Poker Run in August. And if everything goes the way it should, Dechant may even get to see his nine-year-old son play on the field someday.
“It’s become a passion project for me,” he said.
Individuals and businesses who are interested in contributing can reach out to Dechant at Brooks.Dechant@pepsico.com.
Contact Robert Mahary
at 641-753-6611 ext. 255 or