“Having a child with special needs affects every part of my life. Our entire lives have changed, from getting outside of the door, to going on a walk, or going to the park. Everything is different than it would have been if Lucy was a typical child without any medical or special needs.” – Cherisse Lunt, mother of a special needs child.
Cherisse is a mother of three children, one of which is born with spinal muscular atrophy, also known as SMA. Cherisse and her family are frequent visitors to Palo Alto’s Magical Bridge Playground, because of its inclusive and welcoming environment. “What Lucy likes most about Magical Bridge is that she can do anything she wants. If she sees something and she wants to go play in it, she can,” Cherisse mentions. Most typical playgrounds are unaccessible to Lucy, and because of her medical equipment, she finds it nearly impossible to play on any of the equipment with her friends or siblings.
It is often difficult find the time and motivation to travel from Menlo Park to Palo Alto to make a trip to Magical Bridge. But for a family like Cherisse’s, it’s worth the effort. Families who have children with special needs are always on the lookout for places where their children can feel like they belong in a community.. “At Magical Bridge, I know there’s a community and space that is safe and welcoming for my entire family. I need community support since Lucy is medically fragile and in a wheelchair. It’s the rubber surfacing, ramps, and the inclusive equipment that makes Lucy, and therefore us, feel part of this community,” Cherrise states.
As a parent, making sure your children are happy is frequently the top priority. Parents like Cherisse and Chad Lunt strongly believe people need a sense of belonging, and Magical Bridge Playground is the perfect place to make this happen. Cherisse informs us, “Magical Bridge matters because Lucy feels like she matters. The park matters because it makes people feel like they matter. This is the most important thing for a human – to matter and to be included and involved.”
The Magical Bridge Playground has not only affected how Lucy plays, but also how she and her mother interact. Since Magical Bridge opened in 2015, Cherissa feels an even deeper connection to her daughter. She tells us, “My relationship with Lucy has improved because it’s something else we can do together. When we go to a typical park, I’m probably a little more impatient because I’m tired or I don’t wanna take her out of the chair. But if she really wants to do something and I’m like ‘I don’t want help you do that right now.’ At Magical Bridge I can say, ‘Yeah, do whatever you want.’ She doesn’t need me to help her.”
Cherisse, her family, and the rest of the world are still learning valuable lessons from those living with special needs. She shared what Lucy has taught her throughout the past seven years, “One thing that I have learned from Lucy is that we all are very similar and everyone wants to be included and loved.” There are more similarities between people with and without disabilities than there are differences. The people of the world have yet to see that every person with disabilities are more than a blue painted curb on the street, but an inspiration.
About the Authors
Angelica Kolar and Kaitlin Chung are two rising juniors at Gunn High School. Angelica and Kaitlin wrote this article during their five week internship at the Magical Bridge Foundation. Throughout the internship, they interviewed several families and individuals connected to the Magical Bridge Playground and Foundation. This article focuses on one of the people interviewed and explains their experiences in further detail.