My name is Colin Wilfrid. You may know me as the person who creates videos on Facebook Live for the Magical Bridge Playground in Palo Alto during their Friday night concerts. You may also recognize me as one of the people on the staff member page of the Magical Bridge Foundation website. But what you may not know about me is why I decided to become a Magical Bridge Kindness Ambassador and how it changed my life, especially since I have autism.
A Kindness Ambassador is someone who volunteers with Magical Bridge to help spread the message of inclusion both on and off the playground. We greet visitors, make them feel welcome, hand out stickers, and host fun activities with kids and adults on the playground during special events. “The Kindness Ambassador program informally began when Magical Bridge Playground opened in Palo Alto in 2015,” said Deborah Getz, the director of the Kindness Ambassador Program. “It was formalized into an organization for teen volunteers in the summer of 2018.”
I first learned about Magical Bridge Playground and their Kindness Ambassador Program in January of 2018, when I started the second half of my Sophomore Year at Woodside High School. I was looking for a meaningful place that I could apply my growing interest in advocating for inclusion for people with disabilities, especially since I had one myself. It appealed to me because I could start in the summer when all the stressful work from Sophomore Year would be finished. I saw an article about Kindness Ambassadors at Magical Bridge, explaining why they enjoyed being there, and I was so amazed. I really wanted to give that opportunity a shot because I knew that those teens s were trying to spread the exact message I wanted to spread.
Then in the spring of 2018, I went to Magical Bridge Playground in Palo Alto for the first time. I really enjoyed seeing all of the unique play structures that anyone, whether they needed a wheelchair or not, could play on. My favorite part of the playground was the magical laser harp, where I went under a big arch, and different notes played depending on where beneath the arch I was. Then, I had an idea.
Inspired by my favorite YouTuber at the time, I decided to make my own kind of video blog (vlog) showing people having fun around the playground. My mom filmed the vlog, posted it to Facebook, and tagged Magical Bridge. Olenka Villarreal, the founder of Magical Bridge Foundation had an idea after seeing my video; she thought that my job as a Kindness Ambassador could be filming vlogs on Facebook Live that highlights events at the playground.
I jumped on the opportunity and have been filming ever since I received the invitation from Olenka. I take this job seriously and I am honored to share the “MAGIC” at Magical Bridge Playground in Palo Alto each week.
One of the reasons I like working with Magical Bridge is because I love making the park welcoming and accessible to kids and adults with varying abilities. As a Kindness Ambassador, I really feel like I am part of the group. I really feel like I have a lot of peers on my side and who have my back whenever I had bad day. I know all my friends will take their passion for inclusion, and bring it to their schools, jobs, or homes, and make the world a better and more inclusive place. Deborah Getz explains, “We wanted local teens to have a greater sense of connection to their community, by taking pride in being a part of a larger movement to support inclusive play”.
Let’s fast forward to the Magical Bridge Holiday Party in December of 2018. This was the first event Magical Bridge held in their new office, and a lot of Magical Bridge supporters, including myself, were invited to check it out. I was so excited to see a lot of friends from the Kindness Ambassador Program such as Summer Daniel, Paige Knoblock, and Kate O’Connor, all from the Palo Alto High School Class of 2020, and Ella Schultz from the Mountain View High School Class of 2019. I gobbled down on as much of the food as I could because that is what I tend to do at parties like this one. But what I didn’t see coming was that Olenka and Jill Asher, the founders of Magical Bridge, had a big surprise for me; they gave me the Inaugural Kindness Ambassador of the Year Award.
For the Kindness Ambassador Program’s future, I am helping recruit more Kindness Ambassadors with this video I created for the Foundation. This video covers everything someone needs to know if he or she wants to become a Teen Kindness Ambassador, and it will recruit volunteers at all the new Magical Bridge locations that will eventually open, for years to come.
I also plan to spread the message of inclusion throughout my high school by starting a new club called the Choose to Include Club, which will spread the message of inclusion across the school by bringing in speakers to talk about what inclusion means to them, teaching members how to be a more inclusive person, and even recruiting members to become Kindness Ambassadors for Magical Bridge Playground in Redwood City, the closest Magical Bridge to Woodside High School. My job as a Kindness Ambassador has also affected what I want to do in the future. Being a Kindness Ambassador has inspired me to major in either communications or political science in college, and have a job that will focus on the inclusion for those with disabilities.
“This type of program piques the interest of really amazing teens, and getting to work with them on the playground is such an inspiration,” said Getz. “The program has grown now to over 40 Kindness Ambassadors over this past year, and I’m blown away by each person’s dedication, enthusiasm, and compassion. I’m honored to be a part of it, and can’t wait to see what this group will do in the future.” And that is a major reason why I am proud to be a Kindness Ambassador. I love my job, and I never want to resign from it.
Here is the video I created to tell the story of why every teen in the Bay Area should become a Magical Bridge Kindness Ambassador. I hope you will really consider this amazing opportunity to spread kindness, inclusion, and acceptance of everyone in the community. You will also make incredible friends and meet amazing people who will appreciate you.
Colin Wilfrid is part of the Woodside High School Senior Class of 2020. He plans on majoring in communications, political science or music when he goes to college. He also plans on joining the marching band at college as a tuba player. Colin continues to advocate for people with disabilities and publically speaks about being a teen with autism.
About Magical Bridge Foundation and Magical Bridge Playgrounds