In Rainbow Rhino, kids also learn that, “even though we all may look a little different from one another, it’s really okay.” Hughes, further emphasized, “Children need to be reminded that how we look on the outside does not define who we really are on the inside.”
On November 15, 2007 our family was blessed with our second son, Tommy. At birth, we knew that Tommy would face many challenges in his future. Tommy was born with severe physical abnormalities and congenital deformities that would require many years of therapy, surgeries, and unknowns. With the love and support of our family, friends, and community, Tommy has flourished and grown into a funny, witty, charismatic, loving, and all around amazing young man. Through it all, Tommy has always been positive and so strong. He has endured more, to date, than most will endure in a lifetime. One of the biggest challenges Tommy has faced, is his ability to get around physically. With the help of a wheelchair and walker, Tommy has gained a level of independence, and can now move around and get where he wants to go without assistance.
As a family, we have always treated Tommy the same as we would any little boy growing up, allowing him to try any activity or sport he desires. We have always remained active outside of the home with visits to playgrounds and family trips to the beach. You name it, and we do it to the best of our ability. As Tommy has grown, visiting playgrounds has proved more challenging than it was when he was young and small. Tommy wants to be independent and play with his peers, without the embarrassment of Mom or Dad needing to carry him to the play structure, and hover around to make sure he stays safe. As a result, visiting local playgrounds became less fun for Tommy, and more difficult for us to enjoy as a family.
In April of 2015, I came across a news story that a friend shared with me. The report was about a brand new inclusive playground in Palo Alto, CA named The Magical Bridge Playground. The article noted that the City would be celebrating the playground’s grand opening that following weekend. In an emotional moment of sincere gratitude, I sent an email to one of the founders of that amazing project, thanking them for creating such a magical place for children like Tommy to play side by side with his peers, without limitations, or barriers. Within minutes, I received a response inviting our family to
come and take part in the Grand Opening ceremonies. Tommy was invited to hold the key to the playground, that was then handed over to the Mayor of Palo Alto, CA.
Our experience as a family that day will forever be etched in my mind as the first day I realized how important accessible play spaces for children, and adults, are for our society. I left the playground that day on cloud nine, and also extremely inspired to bring an awesome playground like that to our hometown in Modesto, CA.
In May of 2015, I visited with the Modesto Parks & Recreation Department and told them of my dream to bring an amazing playground to our own town. With their amazing support, as well as the support of family, friends, community, City Council members, O’Dell Engineering, and Shane’s Inspiration, we are now turning this dream into a reality. When this playground is completed, the Modesto community will be an inspiration to surrounding communities, and an example of the importance of inclusive playgrounds worldwide.
With your support, we know that this playground will help to enrich the lives of all children and families who visit The Awesome Spot Playground.
Fox Carlton Hughes (Tommy’s Great Grandfather) was a professional artist, children’s book author, and illustrator, who said, “parents can begin to promote self-confidence in their children at a very early age by encouraging them to celebrate and embrace their own uniqueness.” His illustrated children’s book, Rainbow Rhino, uses the story of an unlikely hero (a Rhinoceros named Homer) with an unusual appearance to teach kids that, “it is often our differences that make us special”.
The local community chose a nature theme which has been implemented through a rain forest, savanna, and swamp inspired design.
AUDITORY & SENSORY INTEGRATED PLAY
Sensory integrated play was carefully programmed to provide options for self-regulated sensory input. Designed and selected play items address the primary five senses through various musical / auditory instruments, varied and distinct textures and colors, and interesting combinations of motion and cause and effect activities. All these items expose children to opportunities for sensory input at intervals that they themselves control and determine.
NATURE THEMED PLAY
Dramatic play is a key component to developmental play. As nature is a completely versatile medium to accomplish dramatic play, it is fitting that it is the theme for this imagination rich playground. Through a variety of nature themed elements and land forms, children can transform their play environment into any geographic location, time period, or fairytale.