Growing up a few miles outside of Dodger Stadium, second-year California State University, Northridge physical therapy student James Choe spent many memorable days cheering on the Los Angeles Dodgers from the stands.
On April 18, Choe achieved a childhood dream when he was one of 20 CSUN physical therapy students in the renowned doctorate program honored at Dodger Stadium. These students were recognized for being recipients of the prestigious Roy and Roxie Campanella Scholarship. The scholarship is provided by the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation and the Roy and Roxie Campanella Foundation every year to CSUN students in the Department of Physical Therapy.
The students walked on the field before the Dodgers played the Colorado Rockies and stood in front of loud cheers from more than 37,000 fans as an announcer listed off each of their names to the crowd.
“This was the closest I’ve ever been to the field,” Choe said. “I’m just speechless. The relationship the foundations have with the CSUN physical therapy department is special. The scholarship is for $1,000, so it was a significant portion that can help pay for tuition.”
Dodger legend Roy Campanella was injured in a car accident in 1958 that left him paralyzed from the neck down. After moving to the West Coast, he settled in the San Fernando Valley to pursue a second career in community relations for the Dodger organization. He also spent time mentoring young catchers during Spring Training for the Dodgers. He sought out physical therapy treatments to help him with his condition, which eventually led to his Campanella Foundation funding scholarships for physical therapy students.
“All my father cared about in terms of providing the scholarships was that he could reward and show his appreciation to students who were following their dreams of becoming physical therapists,” said Campanella’s daughter, Joni Campanella-Roan. “Physical therapists turned my dad’s life around and gave him the motivation to live. It meant everything to him to be able to provide an opportunity for people following in that field.”
Through the partnership between the Campanella Foundation and the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation the number of recipients has grown by five every year since 2015, and is expected to grow to 25 by the fall. Campanella-Roan credited the increase to the success of CSUN’s physical therapy program.
“If my mother and father were alive today, they would be so thrilled to see how the number of recipients has grown,” Campanella-Roan said. “The program at CSUN provides [students] with so many tools. Adding five more recipients each year is such a great opportunity and I know it would mean the world to my parents.”
For honoree Catherine Soliva, the scholarship validated that her hard work throughout school has paid off.
“Having the support [from the scholarship] means a lot because it shows that so many people are behind us — parents, friends and now even the Dodgers,” Soliva said. “All of us here are very committed and excited about the profession.”
On top of the 20 scholarships provided to CSUN students, the Dodgers select one student from the program each year to intern with the team for eight weeks during Spring Training. This year’s intern, Ryan Yoshida, said the experience was incredible and extremely beneficial.
“I am very thankful for the opportunity through the CSUN physical therapy program,” Yoshida said. “I was able to learn so much and really gain an appreciation for the day-to-day events and work that go on with a Major League Baseball medical staff.”
Sharing in the students’ appreciation of the Roy and Roxie Campanella scholarship was College of Health and Human Development Dean Farrell Webb.
“I’m very grateful to the Dodgers organization and Joni [Campanella-Roan] because what they’ve done is more than just give scholarships to students,” Webb said. “They’ve opened up life opportunities, which is something very few people get.”