By Noel Smith
Five years ago in December of 2013 the Potts family attended the opening of Tatum’s Garden, an inclusive playground in Salinas and that began the journey leading to the Oct. 13, 2018 groundbreaking of Leo’s Haven. Oliver Potts is confined to a wheel chair but he has two older twin sisters who are very active and who don’t (won’t) leave him behind.
Their father Bob and mother Patricia (Tricia) Potts found out as Oliver became older that there were no playgrounds in Santa Cruz County County that could accommodate both their active twin girls and Oliver in his wheel chair.
That day in 2013 the children loved being able to play together without barriers, and the family came away with their eyes opened to the need for a fully inclusive playground in their own county of Santa Cruz. What is an inclusive playground? For families with disabled children, an inclusive playground means the difference between being stuck on the sidelines versus being able to play and have fun with all the other kids.
Inclusive Playgrounds: Provide ALL children the opportunity to learn and develop together • Improve physical, cognitive, and social skills • Provide sensory-rich play experiences • Provide a safe play space for those with cognitive, social, or physical disabilities • Reduce or eliminate barriers those with special needs encounter at current playgrounds by using universally accessible designs that meet or exceed ADA accessibility requirements.
So the Potts did what 21st Century parents do to get something done, they started the Santa Cruz Playground Project (SCPP) (www.santacruzplaygroundproject.org). The county then connected them with the Mariah Roberts and the Chanticleer Park Neighbors Association (CPNA) (chanticleerpark.org).
Then they found “Shane’s Inspiration (www.shanesinspiration.org).” New Yorkers Catherine Curry-Williams and Scott Williams met and married here in California and were soon blessed with the birth of Shane Alexander. However Shane was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a genetic disorder afflicting one in 10,000 children.
Shane lived only two weeks but in his short life, Shane inspired his parents, family and friends. The result, “Shane’s Inspiration.” The William’s vision is fostering a bias-free world for children with disabilities and their mission — creating social inclusion for children with disabilities through the vehicle of inclusive playgrounds and programs.” Scott & Catherine’s belief “that every child deserves a chance to play” has improved the lives of thousands of children like Oliver.
The next step was that on June 9, 2015, the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors voted to approve the plan proposed by the Santa Cruz Playground Project to build an inclusive playground at Chanticleer Park. The next step was to raise the funds needed to make Leo’s Haven a reality.
The collaboration between the Santa Cruz Playground Project, the Chanticleer Park Neighbors Association and Santa Cruz County has resulted in $1.93 million dollars in private donations, which bring us to the final steps — Groundbreaking and Construction!
Financial support to meet the goal of almost $2 million included donations from:
Lions Clubs International Foundation • Ginny Solari Mazry • Monterey Peninsula Foundation • Julie Packard • Tricia and Bob Potts • Mariah and David Roberts • Rotary Club of Santa Cruz Sunrise • Family Foundation • Jasmine Berke and Scott Roseman • Doug and Diane Deaver • Kaiser Permanente • Rotary Club of Capitola-Aptos • Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County • Bay Federal Credit Union • Benjamin Designs • Community Foundation Santa Cruz County • KCBA Fox 35 • Palo Alto Medical Foundation/Sutter Health • Robert and Nancy Potts • Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk • Sereno Group 1% For Good • SSA Landscape Architects — and many, many more.
As Tricia Potts says, “Let’s Build a Playground for Everybody!”