Teen petitions to get playground inclusion for disabled kids

An all-inclusive playground designed for children with disabilities is headed to the City of Sunnyvale, thanks to a teenager wanting to make a difference. The playground will be built at Fair Oaks Park in Sunnyvale and will be similar to the one in Palo Alto.

On any given day, the Magical Bridge Playground in Palo Alto is filled with children for good reason. It’s one of the most innovative playgrounds in the country.

“It warms my heart beyond belief,” said Olenka Villareal, founder of the Magical Bridge Playground. “It worked in Silicon Valley for 20 years and did startups and I think this is the ultimate startup.”

The playground is designed for children of all ages, sizes, abilities and needs like swings for wheelchair users and a magical laser harp that plays music with imaginary strings in the air.

“I really liked it,” said Esther Lucas of Sunnyvale. “I was actually amazed by it.”

Last September, Esther Lucas who was 17 at the time wondered why the city of Sunnyvale didn't have a similar playground. The Homestead High School graduate, inspired by her grandfather who's disabled, started an online petition. It was part of a Girls Scout project. She then approached the city council. Last week, city leaders unanimously voted to make it happen.

“I really did think that it was a long shot,” said Lucas. “When it did happen, I thought I was dreaming. I was really surprised.”

Mayor Glenn Hendricks said the idea was a no brainer. It’s now part of the city's redesign of Fair Oaks Park.

“I can't wait for the day we don't think of it as unique to have an all-inclusive feature at all of our parks,” said Hendricks.

So far, the city is committing $1.8 million from the parks fund. The Magical Bridge Foundation will raise $2.4 million.

For Esther Lucas, she now believes anything is possible if you speak up. You may even have the solution to make the world a better, more magical place

“I’m really happy for those kids and I hope they have a really good time at the park,” said Lucas.
The plan is to add to the existing playground and have it at the northeast part of the park. It will likely open in the fall of 2018. Another Magical Bridge Playground is opening in Redwood City later this year.

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