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Fact Sheet

About Magical Bridge Playground:

The vision for Magical Bridge Playground was born when founder Olenka Villarreal 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 her hometown of Palo Alto, California 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 seven years of research, design and fundraising, Olenka and her small team of volunteers were able to build this remarkable playground — where everyone can play. Opened to the public on April 18, 2015, Magical Bridge Playground has been heralded as the nation’s most innovative and inclusive playground — one that has redefined play.

MAGICAL BRIDGE PLAYGROUND IS NOT A SPECIAL NEEDS PLAYGROUND, WE’RE SIMPLY A PLAYGROUND FOR EVERYONE AND EVERYBODY:

Is Magical Bridge a “Special Needs” Park?

In a word, no.

What started as a quest to build Palo Alto’s first “ADA-compliant” playground, turned into some soul searching to determine the kind of playground Magical Bridge ultimately would become. When we learned that the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 had not updated it’s playground requirements, we knew the ADA bar was (way) too low. This led us to start marketing Magical Bridge as “beyond ADA” and “accessible,” but weren’t sure these were the right terms either. How could we describe this place we envisioned?

Astounding to think a group of Silicon Valley parents were designing a playground that had no existing category. We knew we were inclusive, accessive and way beyond ADA. We also knew we were designing the coolest park our own kids had ever been to, but our driving passion was to ensure kids and parents of varying cognitive and physical abilities played as equals. In fact, this playground had to reflect the unique needs of everyone in our community. We were never a “special needs” park because, after all, how kind would it be to create this magical space and not invite our “typical” friends in too?

About Magical Bridge Foundation:

Magical Bridge Foundation furthers the promise of Palo Alto’s Magical Bridge Playground by advocating for and creating inclusive and innovative playgrounds in other communities.

Led by Magical Bridge Playground founder and visionary, Olenka Villarreal, and co-founders Jill Asher and Kris Loew, the formation of Magical Bridge Foundation is responding to the global need for innovative and inclusive parks. We are ready to pour our seven years of research, fundraising, development, design, and construction strategies into building Magical Bridge Playgrounds across the nation.

Ongoing Enthusiasm for Magical Bridge:

Nearly 20% of our population is living with a disability, and yet playgrounds are still not designed to meet the unique needs of everyone in a community. Since its April 2015 opening in Palo Alto, California, Magical Bridge Playground has received visitors from around the world interested in replicating our groundbreaking playground model in their communities. This ongoing enthusiasm underscores the urgent and global need for play spaces to be designed for everyone.

Magical Bridge Foundation focussed bringing a Magical Bridge Playground to three (3) Bay Area locations:

Silicon Valley’s Magical Bridge Playground groundbreaking design underscores the real magic that takes place in a community that incorporates the unique play needs of those with all physical and cognitive abilities. It is time to offer truly inclusive playgrounds beyond Palo Alto, and our team has the expertise and passion to take it on.

This year, we are focused on bringing a Magical Bridge Playground to three (3) key Bay Area locations.

What makes a Playground Magical?

Magical Bridge is culmination of seven years of planning, research, design and careful consideration. They say “it’s all in the details” and that could not be more true than at this remarkable playground. Here are some of the finer features that make Magical Bridge so magical.

  • 24-String Laser Harp
  • Fully Accessible Treehouse + Bridge
  • Custom 2-Story Playhouse + Stage
  • 100% Accessible Slide Mound
  • Kindness Corner with Game Tables
  • Distinct Zones for Predictable Play
  • Disc + Bucket Swings for Everyone
  • Original Interactive Artwork
  • Play Zone Descriptions featuring Braille
  • Smooth, Seamless Paths & Turf
  • Patent-Pending Safe Slide Landing
  • Tactile Slides + Surfaces
  • Retreat Cocoons & Spaces
  • Plenty of Shade

Address:

Magical Bridge Foundation
654 Gillman Street
Palo Alto, CA 60310

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

Media Contact:

jill@magicalbridge.org

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