Join us in building the nation’s most innovative inclusive public playground designed for children of ALL abilities. Located in Palo Alto, California.

"We want to celebrate abilities, not disabilities. This park will be a place for all families to play outside, form friendships and simply have fun. It still astounds me that we are building the first place to address the many different play needs of the many different kinds of children who live in our community. What better place than Silicon Valley to showcase our social innovation!"

Olenka Villarreal Founder of the Magical Bridge Playground

Of the 34 existing public parks in Palo Alto today, not one has been built with everyone’s unique physical and cognitive needs in mind. Most of our playgrounds are similar in their designs and are not built to reflect the many different types of people living in our community – those with autism, sensory and cognitive issues, visual limitations and even our older adults. Located in Palo Alto’s Mitchell Park, Magical Bridge Playground is set to break ground in June 2014 and be complete and open to the public in Fall 2014. Created by a team of inclusion experts, Magical Bridge will be the most innovative inclusive playground in the country.

Friends of the Magical Bridge Playground (FMBP) operates under the Friends of the Palo Alto Parks, a 501(c)3 organization, dedicated to the enrichment, enhancement, and beautification of parks and open spaces in Palo Alto.

How it began

Olenka Villarreal’s passion for the Magical Bridge began when she discovered her younger daughter, Ava, had developmental challenges. She learned that vestibular movement, such as swinging, would benefit Ava, but her limited upper body strength made holding the swing chains impossible. It wasn’t long before Olenka discovered Palo Alto could not provide the most basic aspects of play for her daughter. She wondered where all of the other “special” kids were playing. After extensive outreach and research, she was amazed to discover that despite Palo Alto’s good intentions, not one of its parks is truly accessible.

Olenka joined the Board of the Friends of the Palo Alto Parks in 2008 and decided to make a difference for a forgotten subset of the community. With the encouragement, generous guidance and land donation from the CIty of Palo Alto, a vision emerged. After years of research and fundraising, Magical Bridge Playground partnered with Barry Swenson Builder to bring accessibility and inclusive play to a whole new level — a place where everyone can play.


Friends of the Magical Bridge include:

  • Jocelyn Alexander
  • Jill Asher
  • Elizabeth Bell
  • Sally Bemus
  • Dawn Billman
  • Karl Garcia
  • Kit Gibbs
  • Deb Hof
  • Anne Harrison
  • Kathleen Hughes
  • Dr. Jenna Klotz
  • Kiimberly Lin
  • Kris Loew
  • Emily McQueen
  • Adam Rosenzweig
  • Jenna Sanders
  • Pip Sanders
  • Debra Szecsei
  • Melodie Shubat
  • Corrie Sid
  • Sue Todd
  • Carol Zepecki
  • Jane Gorokhovsky

With seven zones specifically designed to accommodate the needs of all kinds of children, everyone will feel safe and included.

While basic wheelchair-accessible playgrounds exist, we are excited to far surpass the minimum requirements set forth by the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Act of 1990. Designed by inclusive play experts, educators, therapists, families living with various disabilities, and the City of Palo Alto, we have designed a place like no other in the nation. True to the innovative spirit of Silicon Valley, the Magical Bridge playground will be the first of its kind.

Of the 34 existing public parks in Palo Alto today, not one has been built with everyone’s unique physical and cognitive needs in mind. Most of our playgrounds are similar in their designs and are not built to reflect the many different types of people living in our community – those with autism, sensory and cognitive issues, visual limitations and even our older adults. Located in Palo Alto’s Mitchell Park, Magical Bridge Playground is set to break ground in June 2014 and be complete and open to the public in Fall 2014. Created by a team of inclusion experts, Magical Bridge will be the most innovative inclusive playground in the country.

Friends of the Magical Bridge Playground (FMBP) operates under the Friends of the Palo Alto Parks, a 501(c)3 organization, dedicated to the enrichment, enhancement, and beautification of parks and open spaces in Palo Alto.


Please feel free to contact us

Olenka Villarreal, Founder of the Magical Bridge Playground
olenka@magicalbridge.org
P: (650) 380-1557
Jill Asher, Media and Press Relations
jill.asher@gmail.com
P: (650) 520-8512
Kris Loew, Marketing and Creative Communications
kris@loewco.com

Frequently Asked Questions


When is groundbreaking?
Join us June 23 at 11am for the official groundbreaking of Magical Bridge Playground at its site at Mitchell Park in Palo Alto. Like us on Facebook for more developments!

Does the Magical Bridge Playground have non-profit status?
Yes. The Magical Bridge Playground is a project of The Friends of the Palo Alto Parks , a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, serving Palo Alto parks and open spaces since 2004.

What percentage of our population has a disability?
On average, 11% of each community’s population is living with some kind of disability. Palo Alto has a little over 10,000 individuals who are disabled.

Who had the vision for the Magical Bridge Playground?
Olenka Villarreal is the founder and brainchild behind the Magical Bridge Playground. Her vision for this project began when she discovered her younger daughter, Ava, had developmental challenges. She learned that vestibular movement, such as swinging, would benefit Ava, but her limited upper body strength made holding the swing chains impossible. It wasn’t long before Olenka discovered Palo Alto could not provide the most basic aspects of play for her daughter. She wondered where all of the other “special” kids were playing. After extensive outreach and research, she was amazed to discover that despite Palo Alto’s good intentions, not one of its parks is truly accessible.

Why are we creating the Magical Bridge Playground? Don’t our current parks meet the needs of children with disabilities?
Of the 34 existing public parks in Palo Alto today, not one has been built with everyone’s unique physical and cognitive needs in mind. Most of our playgrounds are similar in their designs and are not built to reflect the many different types of people living in our community – those with autism, sensory and cognitive issues, visual limitations and even our older adults.

There are wheelchair accessible parks all over the country. How is the Magical Bridge Playground different?
When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed in 1990, it mandated that public spaces be accessible to wheelchair users. Remarkably, our local public parks have not adhered to these requirements. When we discovered that only 10% of the disabled are wheelchair users, we knew we had to exceed ADA standards! Who would create a safe and fun place to address all the other disabilities? The Magical Bridge Playground, of course!

How involved is the City of Palo Alto in the Magical Bridge Playground project?
The City of Palo Alto has generously provided the land, staff and funding to secure an architect to create visuals and to hold several community meetings for public input. The Friends of the Magical Bridge have done all the research, worked with inclusion experts and secured most of the funding for the park. Because of this unique arrangement, the Magical Bridge Playground can be designed exactly to meet and exceed the needs of our wonderful community! Once built, the City of Palo Alto will maintain it as one of its public parks.

Where is the Magical Bridge Playground located?
The City of Palo Alto has designated 1.3 acres of underutilized public land in Mitchell Park, located at 600 East Meadow Drive in Palo Alto, to the Magical Bridge Playground. The playground is adjacent to Abilities United and close to the soon-to-be-built Mitchell Park Library.

Will the Magical Bridge Playground be as fun for “typical” developing children, as for those with special needs?
Definitely! We are passionate about creating a place, which is exhilarating, challenging, and fun. Only by creating such a place will we begin to break down the traditional barriers of inclusion and work towards acceptance of all those who live among us.

What are some examples of innovation in the Magical Bridge Playground?
  • A 2-story fully wheelchair-accessible playhouse and small theater;
  • A kid-friendly stage, complete with costumes to get imaginations going;
  • A magical treewalk that takes visitors through the trees as never before;
  • Retreat areas throughout the playground for children with autism that get over-stimulated by traditional park experiences;
  • Socially inclusive playground zones, specifically designed to make the park easy to navigate;
  • Interactive music experiences to excite all musical interests and abilities;
  • A “Kindness Corner” to ensure that our kids know that bullying has no place here, and will serve as a powerful reminder to be kind to those around us.

Why is the Magical Bridge Playground really the most innovative and inclusive playground ever to be built?
As far as we know, there is no other public playground in the U.S. designed to be socially inclusive. This means, that not only can a wheelchair user enter the park, but can access each and every piece of equipment like any other child. Socially inclusive means that each play zone ensures not only access into the play area, but that it has been designed for maximum interaction.

Seems like the Magical Bridge Playground has been fundraising for a long time. What’s happening?
As of May 1, 2014, $3 million has been raised through community donations, family charitable foundations and city and county funds.

How much money is still needed?
While it's thrilling to have come this far, $400,000 is still needed.

What is the total cost to build the Magical Bridge Playground?
$3.4 million.

What is the Peery Foundation matching grant?
The wonderful Peery Foundation announced their support of the Magical Bridge project in April 2013 by creating a $1 million matching grant. For each dollar donated to the playground, every dollar will be matched, up to $1 million.

When do we plan to begin construction of the Magical Bridge Playground?
Groundbreaking is set to be held at the playground site from 11:00-11:40 am on June 23rd. Please join us!

Can you share more details about the Magical Bridge Playground partnership with Ada’s Café and Abilities United?
Our location is truly a magical corner! With Abilities United sharing its property fence with us, we are able to extend their recreational reach to the 4,000 families they serve. We look forward to creating ways to engage the young people who attend Abilities United to help with plant maintenance, community programs and working Ada’s Café Cart! With Ada’s Café at Mitchell Park, visitors to the playground will enjoy some of Ada’s delectable goodies through a cart, which will be managed by disabled individuals, with the help of volunteers. There are so many wonderful opportunities ahead! Making everyone feel included, and not separated, is what we are all about. Imagine the real magic in creating a community like that. Ada's Cafe

How can I make a donation?
Please visit our donation page online at: http://www.razoo.com/story/Magical-Bridge

Please make checks payable to: Friends of the Palo Alto Parks.
Mail checks to:

Friends of the Palo Alto Parks
959 Addison Avenue
Palo Alto, CA 94301

Can my children or schools get involved with the Magical Bridge Playground?
Absolutely! We have been so delighted and moved by the children in our community. Girl Scout Troops, elementary school children and teens have hosted bake sales, book sales, community events and much more. We enjoy speaking to your schools, religious institutions and community meetings as a way to continue spreading the word about magical inclusion and how KIDS can make a difference in their communities.

Can I sponsor an area of the park and receive naming status?
Yes, and what a wonderful way to leave a lasting and loving legacy in the community where you live! We still have options to explore from benches to specific playground components. Please contact us.

Is the Magical Bridge Playground active on the social sites?
Yes! We welcome you to follow the progress of the Magical Bridge Playground on Twitter and Facebook .

Who can I contact about getting involved with the Magical Bridge Playground?
Olenka Villarreal, Founder of the Magical Bridge Playground
olenka@magicalbridge.org
P: (650) 380-1557
Jill Asher, Media and Press Relations
jill.asher@gmail.com
P: 650-520-8512
Kris Loew, Marketing and Creative Communications
kris@loewco.com

Magical Bridge Playground At A Glance

Designed to be a socially inclusive playground for children of varying physical and cognitive abilities, the Magical Bridge is sure to delight everyone! Addressing the unique play needs of the many kinds of children in our community, our hope is to create awareness that today's park designs are overlooking so many: the growing autistic population, visually and hearing impaired, physically limited and even our aging community. Change is coming and it will be magical!

Here, at long last, everyone will feel safe and included. For some, the "cocoons" around the playground will be perfect for cozying up in, but will also serve as a critical respite zone for autistic children, looking to retreat from the frantic pace of typical parks. The bridge pathway into the playground will be a fully accessible entry for all, but for those in a wheelchair, will be a magical tree walk. Each of the playgrounds 7 zones has been created so those who are visually-impaired can navigate easily and, with braille mapping throughout, their experiences will truly be magical. Bridging the gap between those with and without disabilities is our mission and kids will be challenged, delighted and sure to experience magic with each visit.

To extend our reach to the entire community, we are including adult exercise equipment and innovative musical experiences as well.

We invite other communities to join our vision for the urgent need to design playgrounds with varying abilities in mind. Only then, will real magic happen and we will create the kind of world we can only dream of today.

Magical Bridge Playground Location
Mitchell Park, 600 East Meadow Road,
Palo Alto, CA 94303
Size

1.3 Acres, Donated by The City of Palo Alto.


Zones

Seven distinct play zones designed specifically for the widest range of disabilities, from physical to developmental to social-emotional.


Media and Press Contact:
Jill Asher
jill.asher@gmail.com
P: (650) 520-8512

Press Releases

Magical Bridge Playground Groundbreaking Set For 11am June 23, 2014
The nation’s most innovative inclusive playground comes to Palo Alto’s Mitchell Park, and meets the needs of children with autism, physical and cognitive disabilities, sensory integration issues, and visual impairments.
Read More...

Thank you Enlight Foundation!
Enlight Foundation has generously pledged $600,000 to close the gap and build The Magical Bridge Playground at long last! This wonderful organization will be the official sponsor of our Music Zone and musical experiences throughout the playground.
Read More...

The 1st Playground Zone Has Been Sponsored!
Former Palo Alto Mayor, Leland Levy and his wife Judy Huey have sponsored the Picnic & Performance Zone of the Magical Bridge Playground! This beautiful gathering spot in the park will be a perfect way to celebrate Judy and Le's ongoing commitment to their community and we are thrilled to announce this generous pledge.
Read More...

Thank you Sereno Group!

Sereno Group Pledges 1% of Total Gross Commissions from their Palo Alto Office During Q4 to the Magical Bridge Playground.

Palo Alto, CA – October 3, 2012. Magical Bridge, a project of Friends of the Palo Alto Parks, partnered with Sereno Group Real Estate’s Palo Alto office to kick off their $3.8 million dollar fundraising campaign to build the nation’s most innovative, inclusive playground designed specifically for the disabled.

Read More...

Please join us June 23, 2014 at 11am for the official groundbreaking ceremony for The Magical Bridge Playground at Mitchell Park, Palo Alto.


Magical Bridge Playground Groundbreaking Set For June 23, 2014


The nation’s most innovative inclusive playground comes to Palo Alto’s Mitchell Park, and meets the needs of children with autism, physical and cognitive disabilities, sensory integration issues, and visual impairments.

Upon receiving unanimous approval from Palo Alto’s Architectural Review Board on April 17, 2014, the Magical Bridge Playground project is on its way to becoming the most innovative inclusive playground in the United States. Groundbreaking is set for Monday, June 23, 2014 at 11AM PST at Mitchell Park, Palo Alto, California. Construction will be complete and the playground will open to the public in Fall, 2014.

Magical Bridge Playground was conceived out of an urgent need to meet a void within the local community. Olenka Villarreal, founder and brainchild behind the Magical Bridge Playground discovered her daughter had developmental challenges. She learned that vestibular movement, such as swinging would be of benefit, but her limited upper body strength made holding the swing chains impossible. It wasn’t long before Olenka discovered Palo Alto could not provide the most basic aspects of play to meet her needs. She wondered where all of the other “special” kids were playing. After extensive outreach and research, she was amazed to discover that despite Palo Alto’s good intentions, not one of its parks was truly accessible.

A very different kind of playground was conceived….

Olenka set out on a four-year journey to make Magical Bridge Playground a reality. Raising over $3 million dollars from private donors and foundations (including The Peery Foundation, Enlight Foundation, John and Marcia Goldman Foundation, The Brin Wojcicki Foundation, Palo Alto Weekly Fund, Marissa Mayer, Forever Young Foundation, Leland Levy and Judy Huey, and many other generous groups and donors), and securing land from the City of Palo Alto in Mitchell Park, Magical Bridge Playground was conceived - and designed to be a very special place to break down traditional barriers of inclusion and work towards acceptance of all those who live among us.

Located next to Abilities United, Magical Bridge Playground will offer seven unique play zones to address key developmental areas of play. A few playground highlights include:

Thank you to the Enlight Foundation for your generosity!

2/14/2014

Enlight Foundation has generously pledged $600,000 to close the gap and build The Magical Bridge Playground at long last! This wonderful organization will be the official sponsor of our Music Zone and musical experiences throughout the playground.



Jill Asher , Media and Press Relations
jill.asher@gmail.com
P: (650) 520-8512

Go back to Media Coverage and Press Releases

A Big Magical Thank You to Leland Levy and Judy Huey for their generous pledge to support The Magical Bridge Playground!


11/6/2012

The 1st Playground Zone Has Been Sponsored!

Former Palo Alto Mayor, Leland Levy and his wife Judy Huey have sponsored the Picnic and Performance Zone of the Magical Bridge Playground! This beautiful gathering spot in the park will be a perfect way to celebrate Judy and Le's ongoing commitment to their community and we are thrilled to announce this generous pledge.

For a $200,000 donation, you can sponsor a zone today and change the lives of countless people!



Jill Asher , Media and Press Relations
jill.asher@gmail.com
P: (650) 520-8512

Go back to Media Coverage and Press Releases

Thank you Sereno Group for their generous pledge to support The Magical Bridge Playground!


10/3/2012

Sereno Group Pledges 1% of Total Gross Commissions from their Palo Alto Office During Q4 to the Magical Bridge Playground


Palo Alto, CA – October 3, 2012. Magical Bridge, a project of Friends of the Palo Alto Parks, partnered with Sereno Group Real Estate’s Palo Alto office to kick off their $3.8 million dollar fundraising campaign to build the nation’s most innovative, inclusive playground designed specifically for the disabled.

After evaluating several local non-profits, Sereno Group Palo Alto selected the Magical Bridge project for its “1% for Good Program,” where 1% of total gross commissions from their High Street, Palo Alto office are donated during Q4 of this year. Olenka Villarreal, founding member of Friends of the Magical Bridge, commented, “Sereno has a remarkable commitment to really embrace the communities in which they work and we are so very grateful that they have selected our cause to promote. With so many realtor options in Palo Alto, Sereno has found a beautiful way to differentiate itself.”

Since their establishment in 2006, one of the guiding principles at Sereno Group has been committed to supporting and making a difference in their local communities. Chris Trapani, founder of Sereno Group, said, “Children deprived of play opportunities fail to develop to their full potential. I believe this organization will make a difference in this community that will enrich the lives of children and adults with disabilities for years to come”. This is not the first time a community outreach effort has approached the Magical Bridge. The “Kids With Dreams” program at Stanford University selected the playground project for their 1st annual “Field of Dreams” event. Zoe Levine, 7th grade student at The Girls’ Middle School selected Magical Bridge as her Bat Mitzvah project because she wants to make a difference in her community. Olenka said, “a wide range of thoughtful, grass roots supporters have been so supportive of our cause, but we must now ramp up our fundraising efforts to meet a city deadline. The new partnership with the Sereno Group is an exciting commitment to both our community and to the success of our fundraising campaign.”

Over 10,000 individuals in Palo Alto have a disability and not one of our city’s 34 public parks fully meets their needs. Through the gracious donations of magical friends like Sereno Reality Group, Kids With Dreams and students like Zoe Levine, this park will soon be a reality.



Jill Asher , Media and Press Relations
jill.asher@gmail.com
P: (650) 520-8512

Go back to Media Coverage and Press Releases

Join us in building the nation’s most innovative inclusive public playground designed specifically for the disabled. Right here in Palo Alto.

As of May 2014, Magical Bridge has raised $3 million. We are still looking to secure $400k by ground breaking on June 23, 2014.

Leave a lasting legacy - some remaining sponsorship opportunities are still available!

If interested in making a contribution, please contact Olenka Villarreal at olenka@magicalbridge.org or (650) 380-1557


Sponsorship Opportunities:

$200,000 - Magical Bridge Playground Toddler Zone.
Our toddler zone is the perfect area for children ages 1-4. We have hand selected the industry’s most engaging, innovative and age appropriate equipment for toddlers of all needs, using the highest quality materials on the planet. This area will be a favorite destination for families with young children. Equipment includes an interactive giraffe, a double slide with tactile steps, custom loop climbers, a rocking duck, and more.

$50,000 - Ada’s Cafe Snack Cart.
Delicious organic goodies will be prepared daily by Ada’s Cafe, located in the soon-to-open Mitchell Park Community Library and delivered to the park in our magical-cart. In partnership with both Ada’s and Abilities United, the snack cart will deliver treats prepared by the Cafe and managed by Abilities United young people. This one-of-a-kind cart will be designed by Barbara Butler and custom built by the Palo Alto Kiwanis Club. This is sure to be a popular afternoon ritual for all. Ada's Cafe

$20,000 - Buys One (1) Mature Tree.
Bringing shade and comfort to the playground, mature trees will be planted throughout the park as a natural sun block. Varieties will include quercus lobata or valley oak.

$10,000 - Custom Benches by Barbara Butler.
Handcrafted one-of-a-kind artistic benches by the artist who has designed over 600 custom tree and playhouses - including ours! Each bench will lend the perfect touch of magic to each area they grace.

$5,000 - Picnic Tables.
Located in the picnic zone between The Kindness Corner and Treehouse/community stage, these picnic tables offer families and friends the opportunity to gather together.

$250 - Commemorative Tiles.
Still available for purchase as well. Click here to purchase a commemorative tile:
http://www.razoo.com/story/Magical-Bridge

JOIN THE MAGIC AND DONATE TODAY!

Join Our Community of Donors

Magical Donors:


$1 million
Peery Foundation

$600,000
Enlight Foundation

$200,000
Case Swenson, Barry Swenson Builder

$200,000
Le Levy and Judy Huey

$150,000
Santa Clara County Funds (Joe Simitian, sponsor)

$100,000
John and Marcia Goldman Foundation

$100,000
Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki Foundation

$100,000
Barbara Butler

$29,475
Verde Design, Inc

$25,000
Palo Alto Weekly Fund

$25,000
Marissa Mayer


$10,000 Donors:


Jocelyn Alexander and Debra Szecsei

Michael and Jill Asher

George and Dawn Billman

Friends of the Palo Alto Parks

Eric and Elaine Hahn

Forever Young Foundation (Steve Young and family)

Anonymous

Tony and Kathleen Hughes

Kris Loew

Amy Rao

Sereno Real Estate Group, Palo Alto Office

Roger Smith

Robert and Olenka Villarreal

For more information on corporate matching, group gifts or zone sponsorship, please contact Olenka Villarreal at olenka@magicalbridge.org or (650) 380-1557 .