Tucked away just behind Fire Station #17 between Midler Ave S. and Nichols Ave, in the Eastwood section of Syracuse, exists the small but lovely plot of U.S. soil called Sheridan Park. Eastwood historian Margaret McVicker tells us that Sheridan Park is named after Philip H. Sheridan, a General in the Civil War, and that before the stretch of road in front of the school that is now called Midler Avenue, it was known as Sheridan Road. This first wooden school in Eastwood which was originally only four rooms was later enlarged to eight rooms in 1915 to accommodate the rise in enrollment.
The building itself was located in the area surrounded by Nichols Avenue and South Midler Avenue, in the northeast section, closest to Nichols Avenue. This was an elementary school, but in 1916 received a charter to include high school classes. Margaret has many fond memories of Sheridan Road–including the ice cream socials that were held each spring on the lawns of the school, with various classes contributing to the entertainment. By 1930 it was decided to close the school and build a new one on Sunnycrest Road, which is now Huntington School. Sheridan Road School was the last wooden school structure in Syracuse and is part of the Syracuse Park system being maintained by the Syracuse Park and Recreation Dept, Syracuse Parks Conservancy Inc. (Mike Behnke), myself, and numerous volunteers.
Even though it’s a small park, it requires frequent maintenance. I adopted this park with permission from Mike and the Syracuse Parks and Rec, and with a heart full of “patriotic gusto”, began to seek volunteers to help breathe new “new life” and a deep sense of meaning into it. This is where the story gets interesting.
That’s when Patrick entered the picture and things began to change. His presence that first day as a volunteer was not coincidental, it was providence. He was a freshman in high school in the suburbs, but he answered the call that I put out to his mother one day as I was cutting her hair. I explained that I needed a volunteer just for a day to begin cleaning up the park. She got me one.
I’ll never forget that day because that was the day Patrick and I became best friends for life. I explained what I expected of him and he seemed anxious to begin. I went on to share my dream with him, which was to use this small plot of American soil as the beginning of a mission of peace and community that would someday reach across this great nation to connect people to “believe” that anything is possible. That there existed a thirst for peace, love, and connection in America, and that the two of us were standing on the threshold of my quest. I assured him that with only the two of us, the future of America stood straight ahead with endless and profound possibilities.
I asked for his cell phone and that if he really needed it, it was available. His first job was to get on his hands and knees, and with a piece of slate I provided, he was to scrape away the weeds that had grown between the pavers below the American flag. Watching him gave me an idea and I was curious to see if he was up for it. I asked him to lie down on the pavers and handed him his phone. Then I asked him to take a picture of the flag from his vantage point. That picture now sits in its rightful place in the gallery below. I found out later that night that he posted that picture on FB for all of his friends to see.
At the end of the day, his mother came to take him home. Although he had paid his debt to me, my dream, and society, She asked if he would like to come back the following Sunday. Without hesitation, he said yes. Of course, I was thrilled. When he showed up, he brought a friend. The following week there were three young athletes who came. They cared enough to come into the city from the suburbs to volunteer for something they believed was important to me and their country.
Work still continues there because this is a never-ending project, while the seeds of commitment are beginning to grow and blossom because of the people who want it that way.
Much of the work that has to be done can be completed in short visits and is voluntary. We have plans for a butterfly garden, a Breast Cancer garden, an Autism garden, an MS garden, as well as a small Rose garden. Stonework will also be applied around the already existing 911 Memorial, pictured below. Please consider being a part of this meaningful project, it will give you something to look forward to. Think of it this way, by volunteering the possibilities are endless and you can become a soldier of well-being.
If you would like to be a part of this rebirth, please contact me directly at; [email protected]
Please visit my personal website Drakegaetano.com which is also filled with meaningful posts about how to break away from today’s unsurmountable distractions and live a simple, authentic, and attainable lifestyle. The beauty of all of this is that everyone in Syracuse can participate in this unbelievably exciting adventure. One that will spill its magician patriotism to the surrounding communities and then all across the wonderful and grandiose plot of soil we call America — our home.