Redefining Play

Magical Bridge Foundation brings to life truly innovative and inclusive playgrounds for everyone, including the 1 in 4 of us living with a visible or invisible disability.  We believe everyone should feel the MAGIC of play, including children and adults with disabilities and special needs, those from economically challenged homes or underfunded schools, and those who long to feel the freedom of swinging, sliding, spinning, and finding new friends. This is the spirited mission of Magical Bridge Foundation.

Magical Bridge Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. EIN: 81-2377796

 

Founder and Visionary, Olenka Villarreal with her younger daughter, Ava, who is the inspiration for Magical Bridge Playground.  It was only after the birth of Ava that Olenka discovered how isolating a playground could be.  A place which brought joy and community connections with her older daughter had become a dreaded outing when she realized there were no parks designed for families like her own;  a family who had two children with very different needs.

Magical Bridge started with a mom, two daughters, and a playground need

The vision for Magical Bridge began over 10 years ago when Olenka Villarreal discovered her younger daughter, Ava, had significant developmental challenges and disabilities. She learned that vestibular movement, such as swinging, would benefit Ava, but her limited upper body strength made holding the swing chains at a typical playground impossible. Therapists encouraged Olenka to drive 45 minutes away and pay $150/hour to swing her daughter at the one and only occupational therapy clinic that offered “bucket swings”. Olenka was dismayed that her hometown of Palo Alto could not provide the most basic aspects of play for her daughter.

She quickly found that no public parks in the area offered bucket swings that would suit Ava’s needs. Olenka also thought of her other daughter who was developmentally typical. Where could her daughters play together? Through extensive research, she was amazed to discover that there were no parks near her that were truly accessible and welcoming for both of her daughters. She learned that over 20% of our nation live with either visible or invisible disabilities, yet playgrounds still weren’t incorporating everyone’s unique play needs.

Spearheading a volunteer team, Olenka set out on a journey to build a new kind of community playground, one that would meet the needs of everyone, regardless of what body they were born into so that everyone could come out and play – together. Gathering a group of volunteers and Silicon Valley innovators, designers and savvy fundraisers, Magical Bridge Playground was born. The playground in Palo Alto opened in 2015 and overwhelming interest from around the world, Olenka and Jill Asher created Magical Bridge Foundation as a non-profit organization in 2016.

Since then, the success of the playground has uncovered an awareness that today’s parks leave far too many behind.  Inspired by the popularity and impact of the Magical Bridge playground in Palo Alto, the Santa Clara County Board Supervisors allocated $20 million to bring more inclusive play spaces throughout the region. These funds have made projects possible in Mountain View, Morgan Hill, Sunnyvale, the Palo Alto Unified Elementary School District with additional sites being announced in the months ahead.

The foundation is now beginning to extend its reach beyond the Bay Area and continues to bring the joy of play, kindness and new friendships to as many families as possible.