Daffodils are blooming, hybrid school is beginning and the Eli’s Park Project is in the Senate’s preliminary capital budget at $900,000! As the House and Senate spend the next several weeks negotiating, many of our community members have written to our representatives to voice their support. Here’s a letter from Whitney, mama to Malachi and community connector and advocate, that touched our hearts.
I am writing to urge you to support a $1 million request for the Eli’s Park Project.
In January of 2018, my son Malachi was born with a disability known as Spina Bifida. It is a life-long condition that causes paralysis and requires continuous medical care and support. Malachi had an incredibly challenging start at life, and, because my family was not local to Seattle, we stayed for six months at the Ronald McDonald House, just down the street from Seattle Children’s Hospital, where Malachi was receiving care. Each day, on my way to see Malachi, I walked through a nearby playground. It was clearly not accessible for kids with disabilities, and, knowing that Malachi would be a life-long wheelchair user, I thought: How is it that the playground nearest to a center of care like Seattle Children’s could be so inaccessible? It was obvious to my family that something with that park needed to change.
Three years later, I see that change happening through the Eli’s Park Project.
My son is now three years old and thriving at home. He has reached an expert-level in his wheelchair and zooms around our home, causing all sorts of toddler mischief. But we still spend a lot of time in Seattle, at Seattle Children’s Hospital, and I am very much looking forward to the day when my son can roll down the street to Eli’s Park and play alongside all the other kids.
These type of projects matter. They have a profound impact on the lives of the people and communities they serve.
Seattle parks define neighborhoods and shape communities. However, most of these public spaces are not accessible for people with disabilities.
Children with disabilities, who require additional accommodations for accessibility, deserve the right to access and play in their community parks. Unfortunately, these kids are too often excluded from play, participation, engagement with their peers, and the developmental, social and emotional benefits of inclusion. The lack of inclusive play options also places an inequitable obligation on the families of children with disabilities as they are required to travel farther distances, at greater cost, in order to access a play space that meets the accessibility needs of their child. Many families of children with disabilities do not have the option of taking their child to play at the park or playground closest to their home. Those playgrounds simply are not designed to welcome their kids! The Eli's Park Project would serve as an essential community asset for the neighborhoods, schools, preschools, community organizations, and many more people nearby.
Moreover, the unique location of this park, within blocks of Seattle Children’s Hospital and The Ronald McDonald House, further increases the importance and potential impact of this inclusive project. Many, many children with a wide range of disabilities and serious medical conditions travel with their families to our region every year. They stay in Seattle and receive the care they need at Seattle Children’s. Many of the families with children requiring longer stays seek refuge at the Ronald McDonald House. These families need an inclusive park that is designed to be accessible and welcoming for their children. This park would serve as an extension of the care and consideration they are receiving from these neighboring organizations. This park would provide much needed respite for these parents and caregivers, and it would provide to these children a temporary reprieve from the stress of repeated hospitalizations. Eli’s Park will create for them a space where they can focus solely on being a kid… even, if only, for a little while.
The Eli’s Park Project is a community-initiated, volunteer-led effort to build an accessible park and an inclusive community for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities.
Today, I am writing to ask you to join our efforts to create a more welcoming and inclusive community--a more inclusive state--for kids like my son, and for all of us.
A huge thank you to Whitney, for sharing your story and for your advocacy for our project and beyond. And a huge thank you to Representatives Pollet and Valdez and Senator Frockt for sponsoring the Eli’s Park Project for state funding and for being champions for accessibility and inclusion! We can’t wait to meet Malachi at the park!