College Area Neighborhood Alliance (CANA) Modesto, CA 

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The Barber Family Story - Ryan Michael Memorial Fund

March 24, 2018

The construction has started on the pool repairs and the splash pad in Graceada Park. They are estimated to be completed by the end of May for summer swim classes to begin in June. Much thanks goes out to Jake & Katie for this wonderful improvement for our community and neighbors. As the project developed, they learned that the splash pad was initially put in by the Beard Family, and Nancy Simas, a relative, was instrumental in getting support for the splash pad to be reinstalled with the help of the Beard Family today.

Since these articles were published, the $200,000 goal needed for the repairs of the pool and spalsh pad has been met.

New article: Modesto couple needs a little more help to fix Graceada Park pool, splash pad


Published in The Modesto Bee DECEMBER 31, 2017 02:16 PM

A Modesto couple raising money to restore Graceada Park’s wading pool and splash pad is closing in on the $200,000 the projects will cost and needs a little more help in reaching the goal.

Katie and Jake Barber took on the projects to honor their son, Ryan, who was stillborn May 6, and to give back to those who have helped them during their loss. The college-area couple had raised $60,000 when The Bee wrote about their efforts over Thanksgiving. That was more than enough for the wading pool, but not enough for the splash pad, which will require much more work, including removing and replacing its 30-foot-by-30-foot concrete pad.

The Barbers’ fundraising now stands at $95,000, and they have received a pledge of $75,000 from the Beard Land & Investment Co. The pledge is contingent upon the Barbers raising $30,000 more to reach $200,000.

“It’s been an outpouring of love and support, and we are getting really close,” Jake Barber said. Work should start on both projects in mid-February and be completed for the grand opening on Ryan’s one-year anniversary in May. The projects will be dedicated in his name.

The Barbers said donors include the Modesto Irrigation District ($5,000) and Sutter Health and its Memorial Medical Center ($25,000). The Beard family has been involved with Graceada Park since its beginning. Developers T.K. Beard and T.J. Wisecarver donated the 12 acres for the park, named for their wives, Grace and Ada, in 1906.

“We consider it an obligation to the community to keep the park going,” said Nancy Simas, a Beard family member. She appeared with Katie Barber and College Area Neighborhood Alliance steering team member Twainhart Hill before the Beard Land & Investment Co. board to ask for support. (The Barbers are working with CANA and the city on the projects.)

Simas said the Beard family also donated the $50,000 to build the splash pad in 1999. The infrastructure for the pool and splash pad — including pumps and filters — was destroyed in fires in recent years. The Barbers also have taken on a third project: putting in a play structure at nearby Enslen Park. They need to raise money for that project, and work could start in 2019.


Go to to learn more about the Barbers and the projects. The website includes a link to make donations to an account with the Stanislaus Community Foundation. The Barbers said contractors also can donate their services. For instance, the splash pad needs a contractor to remove the existing concrete and another to pour new concrete. Those interested in helping can email

PREVIOUS ARTICLE: Couple works to reopen Graceada Park pool in honor of their son BY KEVIN VALINE, The Modesto Bee, November 22, 2017

Katie and Jake Barber are raising money to restore Graceada Park’s wading pool and splash pad in honor of their son, Ryan, who was stillborn May 6.

While Ryan will never play in the pool and splash pad with other children and his big sister – 2-1/2-year-old Brooke – the project will keep his memory alive, and it’s the Barbers’ way to give back to those who have helped them.

“When we lost Baby Ryan we saw a lot of support from the community,” Katie Barber said, “and we want to return that, and it helps to focus on something positive.”

The goal is to have the children’s wading pool reopen May 6, 2018, and it will be dedicated in Ryan’s name. The splash pad and a third project, putting in a play structure across the street at Enslen Park, will be done as funding becomes available.

The infrastructure for the pool and splash pad – including pumps and filters – was destroyed in fires in recent years. The Barbers said the pool restoration will cost $40,000, the splash pad $175,000 and the play structure $80,000 to $100,000. The pool and splash pad include upgrades.

The Barbers – who live near the two parks – have raised $60,000, more than enough to fix the pool. They said Burkett’s Pool Plastering in Ripon will do the work at cost except for enclosing the pump and the other infrastructure. Another contractor will build the enclosure. To help raise funds you can donate to the Ryan Michael Barber Fund

This is not the only TLC planned for Graceada and Enslen, which are in the college area and among Modesto’s most popular parks. Modesto is poised to enter into an agreement with the College Area Neighborhood Alliance and Modesto Neighborhoods Inc. for the Barbers’ and other improvements at the two parks. CANA would serve as sort of a project manager on behalf of the city as people and groups come forward to take on projects. CANA belongs to Modesto Neighborhoods Inc., which will provide liability insurance and other assistance.

The money for the projects would come from the community, and the projects would not go forward without city approval and oversight. The completed projects would be donated to the city, and the city would maintain them. The proposed projects include renovating Mancini Bowl in Graceada and the Boy Scout Clubhouse in Enslen.

The City Council’s Safety and Communities Committee recently was briefed about the agreement and forwarded it to the council for approval. It could come to the council in January.

Modesto officials say teaming up with a neighborhood group is an effective way of helping city parks that have suffered from years of budget cuts. “Obviously, we don’t have a lot of funding to improve our parks,” Parks Planning and Development Manager Nathan Houx said. “So this is a key piece to the puzzle of improving our parks.”

The agreement also comes as many complain about vagrancy and bad behavior in city parks. The project embodies the city’s mantra about replacing bad uses in parks with good uses. But city and CANA officials say this is not an effort to target the homeless.

CANA steering team member Twainhart Hill said her neighborhood group is working with the Stanislaus Community System of Care Collaborative to help the homeless.

“The exciting part for me is we are making these improvements and working on the core problem of homelessness in the parks,” Hill said. “We are not just pushing them out but seeing if we can connect them with services.”

The proposed agreement is the product of about a year’s work, including surveying college area residents and other outreach to come up with the wish list of park projects. Modesto Neighborhoods Inc. President Brad Hawn said he hopes other neighborhood groups emulate what CANA and the city have done. “We are building a prototype,” he said, “so we can do this with other parks in the city.”

The Barbers came up with the idea of repairing the wading pool a few weeks after Ryan was stillborn. They said they then spoke with CANA and learned about the bigger effort and took on two more projects.

The Barbers said they still have dark and sad days. Katie Barber was 39 weeks pregnant when she saw the doctor and everything was fine. She went into labor a couple of days later. “We never found out why,” Jake Barber said about Ryan’s stillbirth. “It had been a normal pregnancy up to that point. It was a total shock.”

“I just think this is a great way to be positive and move forward and keep his memory alive and have something in his name,” he said.