Inspired by 10-year-old with cerebral palsy, all-inclusive park one step closer to reality

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The idea for a new specialized, all access park was inspired by an odds-defying 10-year-old girl born with cerebral palsy who wasn't expected to live beyond her first birthday.

It's being called "Mia's Dream Come True All-Inclusive Playground." On Tuesday, Hayward officials joined Mia Vasquez, her family, and other community members to celebrate the groundbreaking of a dream that is being realized.

The $3.5M park will be located in the Tennyson Corridor in South Hayward. City officials said the facility "is expected to be transformative for Hayward with its many innovative play structures designed for children with disabilities."

The one acre playground seeks to create an unrestricted area with special features including soft materials and wheelchair accessible playground equipment. It's also being designed to shine as a symbol of Hayward with all of the city's prominent landmarks replicated in the park, according to city officials. 

The idea started as a sketch on a coffee shop napkin drawn out by Mia's dad, Daniel Vasquez, who was inspired by his daughter's strength, courage and her love for the outdoors. 

Mia was born at 33 weeks and weighed only 2 pounds, 6 ounces. She spent 100 days in the neonatal intensive care unit and doctors told her parents that she may not live longer than a year.

But Mia defied the odds, and at age 10, she continues to fight. 

For a girl who loves being outside and exploring the world around her, her family wanted to bring her and others like her an opportunity to enjoy the simple childhood pleasure of outdoor play.

"We wanted Mia to be able to play, explore and just be a kid in her wheelchair with all her friends and family, regardless of her special needs," said Mia's mother Emelyn Lacayo.

A few years ago Mia's parents reached out to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Greater Bay Area for help. The organization contributed $5,000 toward their dream. 

Then in 2016, they took their plans to the Hayward Area Recreation & Park District (HARD). 

"Hearing the Vasquez family's story and the importance of inclusion for our residents, the HARD Board of Directors unanimously approved Mia's Dream Playground," said Carol Pereira, the board president for HARD.

The project has since raised the additional funds needed with contributions from various funders including Kaiser Permanente, Eden Health District, as well as Alameda County.

The new play area promises to be one of the most unique and specialized access parks in the state, with structures within the playground being built by the same company that has completed projects for The Walt Disney Company, Merlin Entertainments and Universal Studios, according to HARD.

The Hayward Fire Department is also a partner in the project and has donated a fire truck that will be used as play firehouse that has wheelchair accessibility.

Mia's dream has been transformed into a community's dream, bringing together different entities and agencies working toward the inclusion of all. 

"Today’s event was illustrated tremendous community support for Mia, her family and this exciting project," HARD Executive Director, Pamela Russo said on Tuesday after the project kick-off celebration. "The tent was packed, filled with community and public officials, all touting their support of Mia’s Dream," she added. 

Mia’s Dream Come True is set to be complete by late next year.