Every kid deserves a place to play and have fun. Amy Barzach is one of the people who is fully dedicated to making that dream a reality.
In the early 90s, Amy's son Jonathan was born with spinal muscular atrophy (which is similar to Lou Gherig's Disease). One day while at the park with 9-month-old Jonathan, Amy noticed a young girl in a wheelchair, who was unable to play on the jungle gyms and other park features. This inspired Amy to action—she decided that kids living with disabilities like her son should have access to parks designed for their unique needs. Two weeks later, Jonathan passed away.
"My family used to say that in Jonathan's dreams, playgrounds would be places where everyone can play," Amy explains.
Determined to honor her son and follow through on her idea, Amy recruited people of all abilities to help her design and create the original Jonathan's Dream playground.
Thanks to the supportive community around Amy, Jonathan's Dream opened in 1996 on the campus of the Mandell Jewish Community Center in West Hartford, CT. It quickly became a mecca for children of all abilities, thus helping to usher in a new inclusive movement in playgrounds. The success of Jonathan's Dream led Amy to establish Boundless Playgrounds, a nonprofit for which she served as the Executive Director. Since its inception in 1997, Boundless Playgrounds has built over 200 accessible parks in the U.S. and Canada.
The original wooden playground came down in the spring of 2013 due to typical wear and tear, and Amy immediately knew that she wanted to rebuild a new and improved version for a new generation of kids. After extensive fundraising and with massive community support, Jonathan's Dream, reopened in October 2017 with a new motto: "A Place to Celebrate Life." Now, more than 20 years after its original unveiling, Jonathan's Dream has been reborn!
Kids and adults of all abilities helped build Jonathan's Dream Reimagined. In the process, they also helped preserve Jonathan's memory, while promoting equality and acceptance with a public place designed to be accessible to all.
"It's the first time that we've actually come back to a playground," says one mom in our video above, as she watches her son enjoy this very special park.
This HooplaHa original video was produced by Lucia Nazzaro, shot by Heather Holloway, edited by Matt Binetti, and additional footage courtesy of Nild Sansone of Lasting Image New Media. For more inspiring videos, follow us on Facebook and sign up for our Only Good News Newsletter.