Recreational activities important to island life

John McCann

Our community has an awesome array of recreational activities to keep youths and adults healthy. Our inventory covers baseball, golf and pathways to marathon races, gyms and the new Carmines Recreation Building at the Island Rec Center, where there are fitness opportunities for almost every age.

Those of you who know me well know I'm a baseball fanatic and a diehard Yankees fan. When the opportunity came for me to show off my baseball skills, I jumped at it.

Last month, I had the honor of throwing out the first pitch for the season opening game of the Hilton Head Baseball Association. On the baseball diamond at Crossings Park, donned in my customized baseball jersey, I pitched my best throw to the batter and the game was on.

As I saw young players, parents, coaches and fans gathered on the field, I was reminded of what Babe Ruth once said: "Baseball was, is and always will be to me the best game in the world."

Our young players are enthusiastic and would love to have you in the bleachers, cheering them on at every game. I enjoyed the opening game, from the playing of our national anthem to the final out. It was a great night.

But baseball in no way takes away from the game that has made Hilton Head Island one of the best places in the world - golf. This month, thousands of visitors will arrive on our island for the 51st annual RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing golf tournament.

The tournament is vitally important to our state and to the island. Annually, it pumps $96 million into the state's economy and is broadcast in 23 languages to 226 other countries. It is a time when the world has its eyes on Hilton Head Island.

Through the benevolence of the Heritage Classic Foundation, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been contributed annually toward four-year college scholarships to high school seniors and to dozens of charities and organizations, benefiting citizens across the region. Since 1987, $41 million has been donated to charities in South Carolina and Georgia and $4.3 million to 332 high school seniors.

Recreation took center stage a couple of months ago when the Island Rec Center board and staff cut the ribbon to celebrate the completion of its $14 million renovation and expansion project. This project brought expanded programs, new jobs, increased participation in center activities and a sense of pride for residents. Seven days a week, members can enjoy access to fitness equipment and classes, the pool, an after-school program and more.

Rec Center staff report that more than 350 people of all ages use the facility on weekdays, with an average of 225 on weekends. To accommodate the demand, the Rec Center has added 15 part-time and contracted employees.

All of these activities reflect one thing - our passion as a community to enhance our quality of life, whether it is a youth ballgame or a fitness center for all. We want to make sure our residents are able to engage in healthy activities that improve their overall well-being.

John McCann is the mayor of Hilton Head Island.

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