Friday, January 25, 2013

Big Dreams for our family and community

I am excited to announce that I am offically the president and founder of a local non-profit organization who's purpose is to bring joy to families like mine all over our community. 
Big Dreams Parks and Playgrounds, our non-profit group, was created to build parks and playgrounds in our community that serve people of all ages and abilities.  These parks will specifically address the needs of children and adults who are unable to use traditional play equipment due to a variety of physical and developmental disabilities.
Have you ever wondered how a child who is in a wheel chair, who is blind, who is autistic, or who has a physically disabled parent can play outside?  Traditional playgrounds and parks pose very real challenges to children and adults who have these challenges.  For example, a child in a wheel chair or who uses a walker can not even access the play structure at many parks because the surface around the structure is either bark or sand.  Neither of these types of surfaces are condusive to rolling on.  So, unfortunatley these children either sit on the sidelines and watch or their parents choose to stay home rather than subject their child to another day of feeling left out and different. 
I can speak from personal experience that when Ruby was little I really wanted to be able to take her to play outside.  I love being out in the fresh air and love watching children interact with eachother and meeting other parents.  Well, with Ruby, she was not physically able to walk until she was 2 years old, and even then it was quite a while before she could make it up stairs and no way could she climb a ladder to access any of the play equipment.  So, I stayed home.  Friends would invite me to meet at the park and I would make up some excuse why I couldn't go but the true reason was that it really depressed me.  I hated seeing my child excluded and also, I was pregnant when she was still small so I couldn't lift her up onto everything or carry her around the park.  She was too big and I was too pregnant.  I really felt isolated and sad that my child was missing out on such a fundamental part of being a child and also that I was missing out on the chance to see my friends and meet other parents. When Ruby got older and Oliver was at the age where he wanted to play, I still couldn't take them because although Ruby was walking, she couldn't safely play in the playground without help and so, again, I stayed home.  Depressing right?  Well many other siblings, like Oliver, miss out on the opportunity to play with their brother/sister because the park is not accessible or not safe for them.
I was really sad, angry, and frustrated and decided I was going to do something about it.  I began researching parks and trying to see if there was anywhere we could go where Ruby could just play without my help.  I came across an organization called "Shane's Inspiration".  This is a HUGE non-profit organization that is building playgrounds all over the country that are accessible to children of all abilities.  I was thrilled!!  It was right then that I knew I had to build one here so that no other parents had to feel how I felt for so long.  During my research I have learned so much about what the "typical" playgound is lacking and who was not being served.  WOW... I really had not idea the true extent in which our parks were unintentionally excluding a huge number of children and their families.  I also learned the importance of building a park that is challenging and fun for all children.  It is not just a "handicapped" park.  It is a park for all children.  There must be elements that are fun for both the child with special needs and their family and friends.
Have you ever wondered what a parent who is in a wheel chair does when they want to take their child to the park?  Can you imagine having to send your small child out into a park and not be able to help them or be at the bottom of the slide to catch them because you can't get through the sand or bark?  Honestly, I hadn't thought about it either.  But now it seems it's all I think about.  I hate that there is even one sunny day where a child or their parent is stuck inside because there is nowhere safe to play.  NOT ON MY WATCH!
If this is new information to you, I just ask that you think about it.  Take a look at your local playground through the eyes of a parent or child with a disability and think if it is somewhere they could play.  You will begin to see that it is not.  Very soon our non-profit will be doing a large public outreach campaign to share what we have learned about the need in our community and also we will be doing some large scale fundraising.  These parks are not cheap, which is a big reason they are not built very often.  We will need to raise somewhere in the range of $250,000 to build our first park.  That number may seem totally out of reach but there are many ways to raise the money including government and private grants and community fundraising.  Also, we can get donations of supplies such as concrete, gravel, physical labor, etc.  All of these things will help lower our costs but each are vital to making this project come to life.

Thank you so much for following along with our amazing and challenging journey with Ruby.  She is doing really amazing.  She is completely off her seizure medication and seems to be doing great. 
If you would like to follow along with this park project or if you'd like to get involved check out or join our facebook group at

Saturday, January 5, 2013

New start number 2

We are so sorry for the lack of posts on here, we will try to do better for 2013!!! Things have been crazy around these parts during the holidays like we hope everyone else has been. SO...Today is Rubys 1st offical day off her medication!!! We are so excited but of course there is always that little bit of uncertianty. It has taken 8 weeks of slowly stepping down dosages to finally get to this point. Its almost surreal because it has been a part of Rubys routine for the last 3 years that it almost dosen't feel right to do....but we are relieved to finally get her off of it. Of course, she had to catch the flu last night so the poor little girl has been sacked out on the couch in misery, shes been a good sport about it today though with her silly little comments during her awake periods.
  It other notes during the holidays, we took the kids to Railtown for their first steam train ride and now neither kid can stop talking about trains......I think we have watched all the Thomas the train episodes in a day! Santa was on the ride and Ollie was not having it. Ruby on the other hand was a little more receptive to him this time around, after not wanting to sit on his lap at school and a few other places. We also tried to start the kids potty training. Its been hit and miss. Ollie has got the concept down just not the letting someone know, he has to be told. Ruby takes a little more coaxing and still has really only peed once or twice on the potty chair. She will come around though...practice makes perfect.
   Sarah has been doing some great things on moving forward with the universally accessable playground for the area and we are very proud of her great work! I'll let her explain more on that later. Other than that, here are a couple pics from over the holidays, Hopefully Sarah can post more off her phone. We hope everyone had a great New Year and wish everyone the best for 2013!!! We will see ya soon   -Jas