Incarcerated veterans raised money to be donated to a community park for children.

Incarcerated veterans raised money to be donated to a community park for children.

By Lt. Eduardo Mazariegos, AA/Public Information Officer
Salinas Valley State Prison (SVSP)

Incarcerated veterans at SVSP raised funds for an all-inclusive play area for children in Salinas.

The Facility A Veteran’s Group donated $4,995.10 to Tatum’s Garden during a check presentation ceremony. Mike and Ellie Love were present to accept the donation while 18 members of the veterans group were also on hand, along with SVSP Warden William Muniz, Chief Deputy Warden Victor Solis, Facility A Captain J.J. Hughes and the program’s volunteers.

Tatum's Garden is a playground for all children, regardless of capabilities.

Tatum’s Garden is a playground for all children, regardless of capabilities.

Mrs. Love is the co-director of care and maintenance of the park.

The Veteran’s Group has been active since 2006 with a current membership of 25 inmate veterans originally from the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay area. Membership is open to SVSP inmates on Facility A who have served at least 180 days of active duty service in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Reserves.

Dec. 19-20, 2015, they sponsored a food fundraiser and elected to donate the proceeds to Tatum’s Garden in Salinas. Approximately 625 inmates participated in the food fundraiser by ordering food items such as fried chicken, sandwiches and chocolate candy/cake.

Their chairman, Timothy Brown, said the decision to donate the funds to Tatum’s Garden was unanimous.

“The park welcomes all. Veterans in the community can bring their children and grandchildren to the park and feel included no matter what and they know the money will go to the park and benefit everybody,” Brown said.

Edward Welker, an Army veteran, said the feeling of giving is all the thanks they need.

The group’s primary goal is to help veterans and children, according to member George Sanchez.

Tatum’s Garden is a fully accessible, all-inclusive play area for children of all abilities.  It provides a place for all children to interact and be included regardless of their capabilities. Amanda and Shawn Bakker’s dream to build a fully-accessible playground to honor their 3-year old daughter, Tatum, who suffers from spina-bifida, came true in November 2013.  All families, regardless of limitations from wheelchairs or walkers, have a safe zone where they can come together and have fun.

The VGSVSP’s primary purpose is to aid veterans and former military personnel by providing support in dealing with service-related issues including, but not limited to, post-traumatic stress disorder, alcohol and/or drug abuse, family relations and life skills.  The group also assists fellow inmate veterans in obtaining veteran benefits. Their past fundraisers have benefited the ASPCA, Get on the Bus project and Wounded Warriors.

SVSP Warden William Muniz presents the check to Mike and Ellie Love, with Tatum's Garden.

SVSP Warden William Muniz presents the check to Mike and Ellie Love, with Tatum’s Garden.