To explain the development of the Rich May Field, we need to start at the beginning - the death of Officer Rich May, East Palo Alto Police Department, on January 7, 2006. Rich had responded to a call at a taqueria near the corner of University and Bay roads and was following one suspect on to Weeks Street when he was shot and killed. After the murder, Father Larry Goode from St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church came to the murder scene and with police permission, performed last rites at Rich’s body.
Days later, just prior to the large police memorial at the SAP Center in San Jose, the family received a call from Les Dewitt, family friend and a member of the St. Francis Youth Club Board of Directors. He told us that Father Goode had performed last rites but was not aware that Rich was not Catholic, and wanted to apologize if he (Father Goode) had overstepped his bounds. No one in the family felt that to be the case and in fact appreciated what Father Goode had done. Les also mentioned that Father Goode was overcome with frustration about the continuing violence that had affected his parish and its members. In recent months, there had been multiple shootings of his parishioners and he felt that something had to be done. Les mentioned that Father Goode had discussed the large piece of bare ground behind the church that was available and that he wanted to create something for kids and young adults. The thought about an athletic field came about quickly and we began the process of designing the project and then began the long, arduous political process of obtaining the necessary use and building permits, creating the non-profit Rich May Foundation (RMF) and raising the funding to support the field.
RMF created an agreement between the Ravenswood City School District and the Archdiocese of San Francisco to allow varying viewpoints of field usage to be recognized and accommodated. It was important to build a full size field using both Church and Cesar Chavez property. The overwhelming majority of land came from the church’s side but the school’s portion allowed us to accommodate the width requirements for soccer and rugby to achieve full size for both sports.
The main purpose of the field is to give the young athletes of East Palo Alto the opportunity to practice and compete on an athletic field that is equal to anything across the highway in Menlo Park, Palo Alto or other locales. The field and the Foundation working with community athletic organizations, offer athletics as an alternative to gangs and violence. We know sports offer a positive alternative to bad choices and teach life lessons of goal setting, determination, preservation and the benefits of hard work. Sports allow kids the opportunity to grow and develop into adulthood and give our children the opportunity to reach their potential. After seven years of architectural renderings, school board meetings, telephone calls, site visits, neighborhood meetings, arm-twisting, planning commission and city council meetings and fund raising, RMF received permission to build the Rich May Community Field. Construction began in 2015 and the lights were installed in 2018.