Thursday, April 15, 2010


An oldie but a goodie from my other blog:

So in my line of work (the real job, not the hobby), there are certain cases that leave an indelible mark on your soul. Lately, I've been thinking a lot about Hadley. Hadley was a kid with a severe disability with whom I had the pleasure of working. Hadley was special to me not only because she had an incredible spirit, but also because of her parents. They were amazing advocates who did two things that changed the lives of a significant number of children in their town and, really, across the country.

First, Hadley's father, after determining that it is unfun to have to medicate a child with nasty tasting drugs day in and day out, developed a little something called FlavRX. You know, when you go to the pharmacy and get to order your kid's medicine in specific flavors? Yup, that was him, and done solely for the love of his daughter but with a far reaching impact.

Second, Hadley's mother was on a mission to make Hadley's life as "normal" as possible. One of her huge frustrations was that her daughter couldn't play like other kids. Not to be deterred, this mom had an idea. What if she created a playground that was completely accessible for children who are differently abled? Thus, the idea of Hadley's Park was born. Hadley's mother was able to get some pretty major sponsors to step forward, including McDonald's Children's Charities and Playmobil, to create a theme-play park where, literally, all children could play. There's no use in trying to describe it as, really, you have to experience it first hand. It covers a huge amount of land and has larger than life interactive Playmobil structures (a fort, a castle, a ship) as well as many other fun things like a racing strip for bikes, big wheels, scooter, wheel chairs, walkers, or maybe just a pair of fresh legs. All of the equipment, including the climbing areas, is wheelchair accessible. The signs that tell about each area include the descriptions in braille. There are ASL blocks with which kids can practice signing the alphabet, there are swings to support all kinds of kids, even those with the lowest of muscle tone. Hadley's park opened many years ago and my children and I were blessed enough to log countless hours there when we lived close by. Ultimately, several other playgrounds were built in the National Capital Area and beyond using Hadley's park as a model. Today, parks like this exist in many places... though really, there ought to be more.

Not too long ago, right on the edge of Centennial Olympic Park, an "All Children" playground was dedicated. It's small, but it's there, and it's a start. It's rewarding for me to see that causes I've taken up or been inspired by through my work expanding. This is one of my favorite things to stand behind and I hope the trend continues.

I'd like to think that people strive for inclusion, though, sadly, I know this is not always the case. The fact is that the reward of inclusivity is far greater than that which comes (or, frankly, doesn't ever come) from being exclusionary. Hadley's parents had the means to figure out a "taste good" medicine mask at home as well as to create a perfect playground for her right in their own backyard, but instead, they chose to do these things for all the children in their town and beyond.

I guess it's all about how you view your circumstances in relation to the world at large and realizing that regardless of what you're going through, there are others who have been there or will be there... for really, life is a shared experience.

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