June 26, 2012

by: Guest Contributor

A Sunny Day at Preston’s HOPE

On June 15th, UCP Children’s Services hosted their second annual Family Picnic at Preston’s H.O.P.E., a fully accessible playground in Beachwood, Ohio.  The park was built with many custom-designed elements to accommodate youngsters with mobility issues, vision or hearing impairments. Examples of the accommodations include things like sounds (train whistle, flowing water, etc) that can help a sight impaired child navigate, and broad ramps and  slides with transfer decks throughout the park so that youngsters in wheelchairs can access the fun. Forty families enjoyed the event, along with UCP therapists and staff.  The UCP Friends Committee also joined in the fun, volunteering with planning, food and entertainment.  Kristen Gall is a founding member of the Friends Committee, and shares with us her thoughts on the day and what an accessible playground means to children with disabilities who want what all kids their ages want—an opportunity to play and have fun with their family and friends.

It was a blazing hot summer day when I pulled up to Preston’s H.O.P.E. playground for the UCP Family Picnic.  The pavilion was literally bursting with UCP children and families catching some shade after enjoying lunch and a morning at the playground.  Only having seen the expansive park from the freeway, I was excited to check out the fully accessible playground.  Moms and dads that I recognized from the Triathlon caught their children at the bottom of slides and pushed them in swings of all shapes and sizes.  The ground was squishy and safe so you wouldn’t scrape your knees if you fell down.  The elevated bridges that connected the kid-sized houses were wide enough for wheelchairs, strollers and walkers.  Tireless UCP therapists expertly maneuvered around the playground, helping their clients jump, balance and squirt water toys in the 90 degree weather with just as much energy as the kids.  Back at the pavilion, Saphire entertained a table of Friends Committee Members as we chatted about high school graduation, favorite movies and pets.  An adorable little girl named Madelyne playfully shot us with a water gun.  Oliver joyfully jumped from the seat of our table into his therapist’s arms again and again as she communicated through hand gestures and a friendly face.  All the kids participated in a parachute game and Tyler, aka Superman Spicuzza, swiftly rolled under the colorful chute from one side to the other.

In reflecting on the day after the fact, I realized that UCP was a lot like Preston’s H.O.P.E.  A community where it was safe enough to stretch your limits without scraping your knees, that made your path wide with opportunity and provided enough energy and inspiration to rejuvenate clients and families alike.  Most importantly, UCP, like Preston’s H.O.P.E. brings people with all level of abilities together.  I had never thought about it before, but a UCP mom said her family rarely goes to playgrounds so her daughter with a disability would not feel left out verses her daughter without a disability.  It was so beautiful to watch those sisters, Payton and Jillian, play side by side at the playground that day.  This idea of inclusion was best illustrated by the see-saw at Preston’s H.O.P.E.  I was delighted to witness a mom wrangle all four of her children onto the teeter-totter at the same time.  Besides being a fantastic family photo, it was a powerful image.  The two children without a disability balanced on the left and the two children with a disability balanced on the right—who were able to play together on the teeter-totter with no assistance whatsoever.  At that moment, as the kids bounced up and down, Katie Grace, Matthew, Kevin and Anna Mary were literally equal in every way.
Kristen Gall
Volunteer Friends Committee Member


Be sure to check out all of the wonderful photos from the event on the UCP of Greater Cleveland Flickr page!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *