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Please Approve "Dan Wakefield Park" Petition

This petition had 579 supporters

I respectfully request Indianapolis Board of Parks and Recreation approve the pending Petition to rename Indy Parks’ “61st & Broadway Park" to “Dan Wakefield Park”.

Indianapolis native Dan Wakefield is an internationally acclaimed journalist, novelist, screenwriter and spiritual memoirist. He began his career as a freelance journalist, writing for major national magazines such as Harper's, GQ, The New York Times Magazine, Esquire and The Nation.

Early books covered the trial of Emmett Till's killers in Mississippi and the plight of the poor living in Spanish Harlem. In 1968 The Atlantic dedicated an entire issue to Wakefield's snapshot survey of American life during the chaotic and violent Vietnam era.

In 1970 he transitioned to fiction with his novel Going All the Way.  The novel received rave reviews, was selected by the Literary Guild, and eventually sold over 1 million copies. In all he has written five novels and 15 non-fiction books. Three of his books, Going All the Way, Starting Over and New York in the '50s, were made into major films. 

Regardless of genre, Wakefield's works exhibit his alert sense of observation, humility, humor, and brave insistence on telling the truth.

Wakefield has enjoyed a successful academic career as well, teaching writing courses at the prestigious Iowa Writers' Workshop, Bread Loaf Writers' Conference at Middlebury College, Florida International University and our own Indiana Writers' Center.

Wakefield is admired and adored by so many in our city: Shortridge High School classmates with whom he still maintains friendships, writing workshop students, fellow professional writers, as well as fans of his rich and varied works. His geographic and spiritual connections to our area are many.

Born in 1932, Mr. Wakefield grew up on the 6100 block of Winthrop, two blocks from 61st & Broadway Park, and less than a block from Indianapolis Public School 80, where he thrived as an elementary school student. He was graduated by Shortridge High School, and left Indiana in 1952 to attend Columbia College in New York. He recently returned to live in Indianapolis for the first time since high school. Dan resides once again in Broad Ripple, near his childhood home and the park we wish to rename in his honor.

Indianapolis was seminal in shaping Wakefield's intellect and character. He has written and spoken glowingly of the enlightening education he received at Indianapolis Public Schools, and the role attentive librarians at Broad Ripple Library played in initiating his love of books at an early age. Wakefield also cites his experiences as a Boy Scout, particularly summers spent at Camp Chank-tun-un-gi (now Camp Belzer), as critical to his development. He earned Firecrafter and Eagle Scout awards as a Scout.

Now back in Indy, Wakefield is very active spending time serving others by teaching courses at the Indiana Writers' Center, extensively supporting Indy Reads (a not-for-profit adult literacy program) and preserving the legacy of his late friend Kurt Vonnegut through work with the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. He conducts writing workshops in Indiana and elsewhere, and is working on a new memoir, as well as a screenplay for his 1982 novel Under the Apple Tree.

Indianapolis, and Broad Ripple in particular, provide the setting for his best-known novel, Going All the Way.  Wakefield immortalized 61st & Broadway Park by describing it in a hopeful passage in that classic bestseller. Dan played in the park as a child and participated in Scouting activities there, and drew on these loving memories as he wrote the novel while living in Boston.

61st & Broadway Park is a cherished spot in Broad Ripple.  The park’s randomly-timed sprinklers taunt giggling children in summer. Teens idly sway on swing seats at dusk, perhaps discussing plans for life after high school. Picnics, kite flying, tennis, volleyball, book reading in the shade, it all happens here. 

Wakefield's alma mater, School 80, closed years ago but its spirit lives at nearby IPS School 84. School 84 students gather at the park to conclude their annual Peace Walk, and to celebrate the school year's end with a field day party.  Young Firecrafters in Cub Scout Pack 84 join their families beneath the park’s shelter for an annual pitch-in dinner and awards ceremony.  

Wakefield  wrote in his 1988 memoir, Returning, that Indianapolis is the place where his "true inner self . . . was born, took root, was nourished and grew."  Naming this park after Wakefield commemorates the life and work of one of our city's greatest artists. More importantly perhaps, Dan Wakefield's name on the park's sign will serve notice to our children, now and forever, that our local soil is sufficiently rich to nourish growth of roots deep and strong enough to support their rise to the highest level of achievement.

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