When Eli entered our family, we were in love, instantly. And as he grew that love grew too. And so did our community. When Eli started at the Experimental Education Unit, an inclusive preschool, our family was transformed. We met a whole new community of people and saw a whole new world where all people are loved and respected exactly as they are.
Eli knew he was loved. And he flourished. Confidently waving, smiling (sometimes running) into every office on his way to class, building strong friendships with classmates, even making his way into big brother’s class and finding himself a space in the circle. He loved school. He loved his teachers, his therapists, the chef, the principal, the nurse…you get it…everyone. And he carried this love everywhere he went and shared it openly with everyone he met.
And, many people saw and were ready to receive Eli’s gift of love. Our favorite grocery store clerk always accepted Eli’s post-free-produce, sticky hugs over the register. All of his therapists quickly learned to say, “I love you too, Eli, we’re still finishing…” (insert whatever task Eli was trying to charm his way out of). He stopped strangers on the Burke-Gilman Trail with his exuberant waving and whole-body smile. He had a special gift for making all people feel loved.
During physical therapy sessions, Shawn and I would often talk about ways to prepare Eli for the world. And when he stubbornly refused to walk up one more stair or do one more ninja kick, we would sneak in some conversations about how to prepare the world for Eli. Because not everyone was ready to see or receive the love Eli had to give. Once you’ve gotten to know and fallen in love with someone like Eli, you know that as much as they need and deserve better access to the world, the world absolutely needs and deserves better access to them too.
So, if I’m totally honest, while Eli’s unconditional love was the inspiration for this project, there was a part of this whole thing inspired by uncertainty too. I worried a lot about what life would be like for Eli, how he would be treated and whether or not the world was capable of loving him as much as I did.
This project has been filled and fueled with love, and, there have been lots of moments of uncertainty too.
The first time we talked to Seattle Parks and Recreation about our idea for a park for all, they said it sounded great to them, but we needed to show we had our community’s backing.
Because of you…we gathered all the surveys, stories and support we needed to get started.
Then we lost Eli and our whole world fell apart.
Because of you…we were lifted with Eli-strength love which allowed us to continue to follow the path he laid out for us.
We’ve needed feedback, donations, time and connections. You’ve given it all and more.
Because of you…we are still here. We are over halfway to our $4 million dollar goal. We’ve logged over 2,500 volunteer hours! We have a beautiful concept plan being developed. We have gotten to know and love so many new friends in our community.
Even though everything feels so very uncertain right now, I can say with certainty, this park is still happening. We don’t know exactly when, or how. But, we do know, it will happen. Because of you.