Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Inspiring Playground

Easily the most ambitious playground I've ever seen, Shane's Inspiration would be cool on its own. But its mission is even more noteworthy: Giving disabled children a chance to enjoy a full playground experience, and allowing them the full opportunity play along side other kids.

Some history:

In 1997, Catherine Curry-Williams and Scott Williams lost their son, Shane Alexander, to Spinal Muscular Atrophy (Type I: Werdnig-Hoffman Disease) only a few weeks after his birth. Had Shane lived, he would have spent his life in a wheelchair. Because of a physical disability, Shane would have been denied one of the most fundamental rights of childhood: the right to play independently with friends and family at neighborhood and school playgrounds. This realization encouraged the Williams and family friend Tiffany Harris to turn a tragedy into a vision that resulted in Shane's Inspiration... a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children with disabilities.

"Shane’s Inspiration” was the first Universally Accessible Playground in the Western United States and the largest in the nation. This remarkable play environment is the most popular playground in Los Angeles and has inspired the creation of Universally Accessible Playgrounds throughout Southern California and beyond…raising awareness and support for integrated play in the process.

Evan doesn't have a disability, but we'd heard about the park for years -- and finally got a chance to check it out this weekend. He loved it -- the park has several play structures built for kids of several ages and abilities. He immediately took to the more toddler-friendly structures. As a bonus, the soft, rubbery surface eased his many falls.

Following the success of Shane's Inspiration, the foundation has helped build several more universally accessible playgrounds in the L.A. region, including Aidan's Place (1350 S. Sepulveda Blvd.); Lincoln Park (3600 N. Mission Road); Parque de Los Suenos (1333 S. Bonnie Beach Place); Prado Regional Park (16700 S. Euclid Ave., Chino); Corona-Norco Family YMCA (1331 River Road, Corona); Lake Street Park (211 N. Lake St.); Wilshire Crest Elementary (5241 W. Olympic Blvd.) and the L.A. Zoo's Neil Papiano Play Park.

Evan also recently played at the zoo play park, and deemed it worthy!

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