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Some kids dream about flying while other kids just dream about playing at a park


sarah and hadley Some say “necessity is the mother of all inventions,” that became evident to me one spring day in early 1996 when I brought my then 4 year old and 7 year old daughters to play at a local park. We were very excited to finally get out of the house from the winter doldrums and get some fresh air at the playground. My older daughter was thrilled to have a place to run around and I was just thrilled to get outside after winter.

When we got to the playground it was the usual ritual of letting my older daughter out of the car and having her bolt like lightening to the playground area, and for me, not so fast. I had to lift the wheelchair out of the back of the station wagon and then put my 4 year old daughter into it. When that 5 minute ordeal was over, we were off but almost immediately we were stopped by a timber barricade which seemed to be placed there to keep in mulch but very obviously was a problem for us. So, as usual supermom that I am, picked up both the wheelchair and my daughter over the timbers and then thought we were off. But again, not so easy to push a wheelchair over mulch, think of trying to drive over sand; it’s not so easy, is it?

We then caught up with my older daughter who was running from each piece of equipment to the next. When I finally told her to “hold up.” She exclaimed she wanted us to “come up” on the equipment. Come up? Now how exactly was that supposed to happen? Oh, I know the wheelchair was supposed to sprout wings. Well, that is what it would have taken to get her up on the equipment. And let’s say that actually could have happened, then what? Sit up there and watch from the tower while her sister ran around and around. This was no fun!

So my younger daughter and I went over to a seating area where I sat and we both watched my older daughter run around. At one point my older daughter came over to us a little frustrated but then realized when she came over to us that my younger daughter had a tear dripping down her face. That was it! That was the moment I went from a stay at home mom to a mom on a mission! Why was there not anything my children could do together? Why was there not anything I could do with my younger daughter while my older daughter played? This was going to change, it had to!

I went home and started drawing (coming from a design background, drawing was second nature to me) and visualizing what a perfect playground would look like. When my husband came home I told him about that days adventures and how I was now out to change the world. I had a dream; a goal- “to build a unique park where all children could play together with or without disabilities.” A park where through playing, the concepts would help all children socially, and cognitively, as well as physically. Equally as important, a place for children with disabilities to play with their own siblings and peers.

The ideas and visions of this playground resulted in the development of a theme-play park. Often a playground is considered strictly physical. Although, when the physical play is mastered, the appeal of the playground can lead to boredom. Theme-play offers a challenge to the child’s imagination and encourages children to play for extended periods of time.

My dream playground encompassed a Transportation Area, Pirate Ship, Frontier Village, Castle, Dinosaurs, and Main Street themes. In the design, accessibility was ensured through the implementation of the ADA requirements, CPSC and ASTM guidelines; those are playground rules.

By combining all of these elements in the design and equipment, my dream would create the best playground for all children to play!

That was the day I put on my “big girl pants” and “hard hat” and formed a non profit organization which would come to be known through out the country as Hadley’s Park. In 1999 after three years of lobbying and fundraising I raised the needed one million dollars to build my dream park which has gained much national recognition for its creativity and play-ability for ALL children.

Do you have any “fully” inclusive playgrounds near you? I’d love to hear about them!

Join me in my families journey and subscribe to I’m Still Standing to keep updated! I’m here to now share with you how you can build on your dreams of building a project like Hadley’s Park.

About shelley

Shelley Kramm is the founder and editor of I'm Still Standing and The DC Ladies. Learn more about her and her inspirational family here and connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Google+ and on

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  1. I can't imagine how hard it was to juggle both girls on a playground not fit for the two of them. As I looked through your blog before I noticed a logo with Hadley's name on it, loved to see her name in print. You do amazing work!!!

  2. You did a really amazing thing, not just for your kids but for so many other families. The park sounds super fun too!

  3. :) I love hearing how your park came to be! So very inspiring!

  4. This would have to be frustrating. It's not really something that's an issue for me because my kids are AB and if I go to the park it's with friends so we just sit off to the side. Even if I could access the entire park I couldn't climb and slide anyways so it's not really an issue. There is one park by my husband's office that is meant to be accessible for children with dissabilities but it's not worth the drive for the reasons I stated.

    There is a theme park similar to what you described in San Antonio Texas. Again, we've never gone because the focus in on the kids but if you ar ever in San Antonio I'd recommend it.

    My biggest problem?? Parking. Ugh. There are plenty of handicapped spots but lots of people that abuse them or convince their doc they need them and don't.

  5. We have a very hard time with parks & haven't gone in years. The autie kiddos don't understand not running away, not walking in front or back of swings & slowing down if someone comes near when they're on the swing. With more than one of them plus other children, it's impossible to keep up with them there. We even have trouble in our own (fenced in) yard.

    I don't see any park as being able to accomodate autie kiddos like ours; it's a dangerous disability in that they can "disappear" so easily.

    Thanks for alerting me to your post!

  6. One of the things I hate is when facilities contrive to split up my kids – some are suitable for my mobile kids and some are perfect for my dd with CP, but now she is so big there are few places that are suitable for both – I would love a playground like this in Dublin x

  7. Your post made me want to cry. It was beautiful and frustrating and filled with love and determination. Sending prayers that someone makes your dream park come true!

  8. So where is this park??? I wanna go! :)

  9. I'm with Lynn, where's the park? Sounds like fun.

    We have a park like what you're describing in my hometown BUT they used mulch which, like you said, is hard to navigate w/a wheelchair. They also have specialized play equipment for disabled kids BUT it's off on a different section of the park. Their intentions were good but I think a few small changes would have made it better and more useful to disabled children.

  10. Your park sounds so amazing. We have a similar park like that (not as big) about 30 minute driving distance from our house. We used to go there all the time when my kids were smaller and it was always full of children with disabilities and without. It was so nice to watch them play together and help each other out.

    Btw, had to take my BFFs daughter to a specialist today & while I was waiting I was reading my Woman's World I just picked up and guest what….there was a blurp about a blogger with a picture of her. I looked closely and I screamed….I know her, that's Shelley from I'm Still Standing. People thought I was crazy, but I know down deep they were impressed with my association.

  11. wow! that was incredible thing you did for your daughter & all the other child who long to be able to participate with the other kids.

    *stopping by from sits