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Magical Bridge Playground is the nation's most innovative-inclusive playground, designed and built for visitors of ALL abilities. Uniting the entrepreneurial spirit of Silicon Valley with technology, heart and compassion, Magical Bridge is a new kind of playground. One, where everyone can play. Located in Mitchell Park, Palo Alto, California.

Let’s Start a National Conversation!
We invite all communities to join our vision for the urgent need to design public playgrounds with varying abilities in mind. Only then, will real magic happen as we create the kind of world we can only dream of today.

How it began

Olenka Villarreal’s passion for the Magical Bridge began when she 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 Palo Alto 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 years of research and fundraising, Magical Bridge Playground partnered with Barry Swenson Builder to bring accessibility and inclusive play to a whole new level — a place where everyone can play.


Friends of the Magical Bridge include:

  • Jocelyn Alexander
  • Jill Asher
  • Elizabeth Bell
  • Sally Bemus
  • Dawn Billman
  • Karl Garcia
  • Kit Gibbs
  • Deb Hof
  • Anne Harrison
  • Kathleen Hughes
  • Dr. Jenna Klotz
  • Kiimberly Lin
  • Kris Loew
  • Emily McQueen
  • Adam Rosenzweig
  • Jenna Sanders
  • Pip Sanders
  • Debra Szecsei
  • Melodie Shubat
  • Corrie Sid
  • Sue Todd
  • Carol Zepecki
  • Jane Gorokhovsky

With seven zones specifically designed to accommodate the needs of all kinds of children, everyone will feel safe and included.

While basic wheelchair-accessible playgrounds exist, we are excited to far surpass the minimum requirements set forth by the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Act of 1990. Designed by inclusive play experts, educators, therapists, families living with various disabilities, and the City of Palo Alto, we have designed a place like no other in the nation. True to the innovative spirit of Silicon Valley, the Magical Bridge playground will be the first of its kind.

Of the 34 existing public parks in Palo Alto today, not one has been built with everyone’s unique physical and cognitive needs in mind. Most of our playgrounds are similar in their designs and are not built to reflect the many different types of people living in our community – those with autism, sensory and cognitive issues, visual limitations and even our older adults. Located in Palo Alto’s Mitchell Park, Magical Bridge Playground is set to break ground in June 2014 and be complete and open to the public in Fall 2014. Created by a team of inclusion experts, Magical Bridge will be the most innovative inclusive playground in the country.

Friends of the Magical Bridge Playground (FMBP) operates under the Friends of the Palo Alto Parks, a 501(c)3 organization, dedicated to the enrichment, enhancement, and beautification of parks and open spaces in Palo Alto.


Please feel free to contact us

Olenka Villarreal, Founder of the Magical Bridge Playground
olenka@magicalbridge.org
P: (650) 380-1557
Jill Asher, Media and Press Relations
jill.asher@gmail.com
P: (650) 520-8512
Kris Loew, Marketing and Creative Communications
kris@loewco.com

Frequently Asked Questions


When was groundbreaking?
Construction began on June 23, 2014.

When will construction be complete?
We expect to open the playground to the public in March 2015. Like us on Facebook for more developments!

Does the Magical Bridge Playground have non-profit status?
Yes. The Magical Bridge Playground is a project of The Friends of the Palo Alto Parks, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, serving Palo Alto parks and open spaces since 2004.

What percentage of our population has a disability?
On average, 11% of each community’s population is living with some kind of disability. Palo Alto has a little over 10,000 individuals who are disabled.

Who had the vision for the Magical Bridge Playground?
Olenka Villarreal is the founder and brainchild behind the Magical Bridge Playground. Her vision for this project began when she 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 Palo Alto 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.

Why are we creating the Magical Bridge Playground? Don’t our current parks meet the needs of children with disabilities?
Of the 34 existing public parks in Palo Alto today, not one has been built with everyone’s unique physical and cognitive needs in mind. Most of our playgrounds are similar in their designs and are not built to reflect the many different types of people living in our community – those with autism, sensory and cognitive issues, visual limitations and even our older adults.

There are wheelchair accessible parks all over the country. How is the Magical Bridge Playground different?
When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed in 1990, it mandated that public spaces be accessible to wheelchair users. Remarkably, our local public parks have not adhered to these requirements. When we discovered that only 10% of the disabled are wheelchair users, we knew we had to exceed ADA standards! Who would create a safe and fun place to address all the other disabilities? The Magical Bridge Playground, of course!

How involved is the City of Palo Alto in the Magical Bridge Playground project?
The City of Palo Alto has generously provided the land, staff and funding to secure an architect to create visuals and to hold several community meetings for public input. The Friends of the Magical Bridge have done all the research, worked with inclusion experts and secured most of the funding for the park. Because of this unique arrangement, the Magical Bridge Playground can be designed exactly to meet and exceed the needs of our wonderful community! Once built, the City of Palo Alto will maintain it as one of its public parks.

Where is the Magical Bridge Playground located?
The City of Palo Alto has designated 1.3 acres of underutilized public land in Mitchell Park, located at 600 East Meadow Drive in Palo Alto, to the Magical Bridge Playground. The playground is adjacent to Abilities United and close to the Mitchell Park Library.

Will the Magical Bridge Playground be as fun for “typical” developing children, as for those with special needs?
Definitely! We are passionate about creating a place, which is exhilarating, challenging, and fun. Only by creating such a place will we begin to break down the traditional barriers of inclusion and work towards acceptance of all those who live among us.

What are some examples of innovation in the Magical Bridge Playground?
  • A 2-story fully wheelchair-accessible playhouse and small theater;
  • A kid-friendly stage, complete with costumes to get imaginations going;
  • A magical treewalk that takes visitors through the trees as never before;
  • Retreat areas throughout the playground for children with autism that get over-stimulated by traditional park experiences;
  • Socially inclusive playground zones, specifically designed to make the park easy to navigate;
  • Interactive music experiences to excite all musical interests and abilities;
  • A “Kindness Corner” to ensure that our kids know that bullying has no place here, and will serve as a powerful reminder to be kind to those around us.

Why is the Magical Bridge Playground really the most innovative and inclusive playground ever to be built?
As far as we know, there is no other public playground in the U.S. designed to be socially inclusive. This means, that not only can a wheelchair user enter the park, but can access each and every piece of equipment like any other child. Socially inclusive means that each play zone ensures not only access into the play area, but that it has been designed for maximum interaction.

What is the total cost to build the Magical Bridge Playground?
$4 million

Can you share more details about the Magical Bridge Playground partnership with Ada’s Café and Abilities United?
Our location is truly a magical corner! With Abilities United sharing its property fence with us, we are able to extend their recreational reach to the 4,000 families they serve. We look forward to creating ways to engage the young people who attend Abilities United to help with plant maintenance, community programs and working Ada’s Café Cart! With Ada’s Café at Mitchell Park, visitors to the playground will enjoy some of Ada’s delectable goodies through a cart, which will be managed by disabled individuals, with the help of volunteers. There are so many wonderful opportunities ahead! Making everyone feel included, and not separated, is what we are all about. Imagine the real magic in creating a community like that. Ada's Cafe

How can I make a donation?
We are accepting donations for programming after the playground is open. Please visit our donation page online at: http://www.razoo.com/story/Magical-Bridge

Please make checks payable to: Friends of the Palo Alto Parks.

Mail checks to:
Friends of the Palo Alto Parks
959 Addison Avenue
Palo Alto, CA 94301

Can my children or schools get involved with the Magical Bridge Playground?
Absolutely! We have been so delighted and moved by the children in our community. Girl Scout Troops, elementary school children and teens have hosted bake sales, book sales, community events and much more. We enjoy speaking to your schools, religious institutions and community meetings as a way to continue spreading the word about magical inclusion and how KIDS can make a difference in their communities. Contact Jill Asher at jill.asher@gmail.com if you would like to include your students in a project for the Magical Bridge Playground.

Is the Magical Bridge Playground active on the social sites?
Yes! We welcome you to follow the progress of the Magical Bridge Playground on Twitter and Facebook.

Who can I contact about getting involved with the Magical Bridge Playground?

Olenka Villarreal, Founder of the Magical Bridge Playground
olenka@magicalbridge.org
P: (650)380-1557
Jill Asher, Media and Press Relations. Community Relations.
jill.asher@gmail.com
P: (650)520-8512
Kris Loew, Marketing and Creative Communications
kris@loewco.com

Magical Bridge Playground

Designed to be a socially inclusive playground for children of varying physical and cognitive abilities, the Magical Bridge is sure to delight everyone! Addressing the unique play needs of the many kinds of children in our community, our hope is to create awareness that today's park designs are overlooking so many: the growing autistic population, visually and hearing impaired, physically limited and even our aging community. Change is here and it will be magical!

The Magic of Music:

Scientists have found that music stimulates more parts of the brain that any other human function. It heals, soothes, excites and connects us. In children, it motivates interaction, facilitates socialization and improves social skills.

For those who have difficulty communicating verbally, music provides a way to express themselves in a non-verbal, non-threatening manner.

Children with varying disabilities or those living with autism often have remarkable capability and responsiveness to music. Music is processed by a different area of the brain than speech and language, so it easier for some children to absorb information and skills when they are presented with music.

The 24-string laser harp in the Music Zone, created by artist Jen Lewin, is sure to encourage visitors of varying abilities to create a symphony of sounds together! When a user breaks one of the laser beams, the harp creates a sounds based on how quickly the person was moving and on the height of their hand (or wheelchair). The pleasing sounds of the laser harp are magical whether one or 50 are playing on it!

The Magic of Swinging:

As one of the most critical ways to develop a sense of balance, for many children, swinging really is magical! That wonderful back and forth motion creates vestibular stimulation, which means that it activates the ear canal and the fluids in it.

Much More than Play
For people with various autism spectrum disorders such as Autism, PDD, ADHD, Asperger's and learning disabilities, swinging is serious therapy. Swinging helps to process the stimuli from senses of sight, smell, touch, taste and balance and body. For those living with autism, they often withdraw as a way to avoid overstimulation or they try to sort the input out through repetitive behaviors. This motion of swinging restores balance to the vestibular system, provides proprioceptive input (deep pressure) and create an "in balance" feeling. Swinging also soothes, relaxes and increases concentration. In fact, children who have trouble focusing on tasks such as reading or math, may find it easier to concentrate sitting in a swing.

The Magic of Spinning:

Who would have guessed that spinning has a profound impact on our brain? Rotary vestibular input (spinning) is the most powerful form of sensory input that the brain takes in to process. Incredibly, 15 minutes of vestibular input can have a 6-8 hour impact (good or bad) on the brain and self-regulation.

Because if its power on the brain, spinning needs to be controlled, supervised, and monitored with those children who have sensory differences. Encourage these children to spin no more than 10 times in one direction at 1 spin/revolution per second. Stop briefly, then spin the other direction. For those children who do not get dizzy, encourage spinning in prone extension (on tummy) to help the brain learn to register the feeling of rotary input.

Spinning is incredibly powerful and the brain may need a long time to process the input, so please spin with caution.

The Magic of Playing on a Stage or in a Treehouse:

Making new friends is even more fun if you can do it while improving language and social skills or becoming a better problem-solver. There is no better way to explore and develop such important life skills than through pretend-play inside a playhouse or acting our a skit on an inviting and cozy stage!

Since 1987, Barbara Butler has been creating unique play structures using only all natural redwood and make their our own natural, non-toxic tung oil wood stains. While Barbara has built over 600 playhouses worldwide, she is excited that her 1st wheelchair-accesssible is for Magical Bridge.

The Magic of Sliding:

Through sliding, children learn to keep their torso balanced as gravity pulls them down a slide. In addition to spinning and swinging, it also helps develop a sense of balance and body awareness.

Magical Bridge Playground Location
Mitchell Park, 600 East Meadow Road,
Palo Alto, CA 94303
Media and Press Contact:
Jill Asher
jill.asher@gmail.com
P: (650) 520-8512

Press Releases

Magical Bridge Playground Groundbreaking Set For 11am June 23, 2014
The nation’s most innovative inclusive playground comes to Palo Alto’s Mitchell Park, and meets the needs of children with autism, physical and cognitive disabilities, sensory integration issues, and visual impairments.
Read More...

Thank you Enlight Foundation!
Enlight Foundation has generously pledged $600,000 to close the gap and build The Magical Bridge Playground at long last! This wonderful organization will be the official sponsor of our Music Zone and musical experiences throughout the playground.
Read More...

The 1st Playground Zone Has Been Sponsored!
Former Palo Alto Mayor, Leland Levy and his wife Judy Huey have sponsored the Picnic & Performance Zone of the Magical Bridge Playground! This beautiful gathering spot in the park will be a perfect way to celebrate Judy and Le's ongoing commitment to their community and we are thrilled to announce this generous pledge.
Read More...

Thank you Sereno Group!

Sereno Group Pledges 1% of Total Gross Commissions from their Palo Alto Office During Q4 to the Magical Bridge Playground.

Palo Alto, CA – October 3, 2012. Magical Bridge, a project of Friends of the Palo Alto Parks, partnered with Sereno Group Real Estate’s Palo Alto office to kick off their $3.8 million dollar fundraising campaign to build the nation’s most innovative, inclusive playground designed specifically for the disabled.

Read More...

Please join us June 23, 2014 at 11am for the official groundbreaking ceremony for The Magical Bridge Playground at Mitchell Park, Palo Alto.


Magical Bridge Playground Groundbreaking Set For June 23, 2014


The nation’s most innovative inclusive playground comes to Palo Alto’s Mitchell Park, and meets the needs of children with autism, physical and cognitive disabilities, sensory integration issues, and visual impairments.

Upon receiving unanimous approval from Palo Alto’s Architectural Review Board on April 17, 2014, the Magical Bridge Playground project is on its way to becoming the most innovative inclusive playground in the United States. Groundbreaking is set for Monday, June 23, 2014 at 11AM PST at Mitchell Park, Palo Alto, California. Construction will be complete and the playground will open to the public in Fall, 2014.

Magical Bridge Playground was conceived out of an urgent need to meet a void within the local community. Olenka Villarreal, founder and brainchild behind the Magical Bridge Playground discovered her daughter had developmental challenges. She learned that vestibular movement, such as swinging would be of benefit, but her limited upper body strength made holding the swing chains impossible. It wasn’t long before Olenka discovered Palo Alto could not provide the most basic aspects of play to meet her needs. 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 was truly accessible.

A very different kind of playground was conceived….

Olenka set out on a four-year journey to make Magical Bridge Playground a reality. Raising over $3 million dollars from private donors and foundations (including The Peery Foundation, Enlight Foundation, John and Marcia Goldman Foundation, The Brin Wojcicki Foundation, Palo Alto Weekly Fund, Marissa Mayer, Forever Young Foundation, Leland Levy and Judy Huey, and many other generous groups and donors), and securing land from the City of Palo Alto in Mitchell Park, Magical Bridge Playground was conceived - and designed to be a very special place to break down traditional barriers of inclusion and work towards acceptance of all those who live among us.

Located next to Abilities United, Magical Bridge Playground will offer seven unique play zones to address key developmental areas of play. A few playground highlights include:

Thank you to the Enlight Foundation for your generosity!

2/14/2014

Enlight Foundation has generously pledged $600,000 to close the gap and build The Magical Bridge Playground at long last! This wonderful organization will be the official sponsor of our Music Zone and musical experiences throughout the playground.



Jill Asher, Media and Press Relations
jill.asher@gmail.com
P: (650) 520-8512

Go back to Media Coverage and Press Releases

A Big Magical Thank You to Leland Levy and Judy Huey for their generous pledge to support The Magical Bridge Playground!


11/6/2012

The 1st Playground Zone Has Been Sponsored!

Former Palo Alto Mayor, Leland Levy and his wife Judy Huey have sponsored the Picnic and Performance Zone of the Magical Bridge Playground! This beautiful gathering spot in the park will be a perfect way to celebrate Judy and Le's ongoing commitment to their community and we are thrilled to announce this generous pledge.

For a $200,000 donation, you can sponsor a zone today and change the lives of countless people!



Jill Asher, Media and Press Relations
jill.asher@gmail.com
P: (650) 520-8512

Go back to Media Coverage and Press Releases

Thank you Sereno Group for their generous pledge to support The Magical Bridge Playground!


10/3/2012

Sereno Group Pledges 1% of Total Gross Commissions from their Palo Alto Office During Q4 to the Magical Bridge Playground


Palo Alto, CA – October 3, 2012. Magical Bridge, a project of Friends of the Palo Alto Parks, partnered with Sereno Group Real Estate’s Palo Alto office to kick off their $3.8 million dollar fundraising campaign to build the nation’s most innovative, inclusive playground designed specifically for the disabled.

After evaluating several local non-profits, Sereno Group Palo Alto selected the Magical Bridge project for its “1% for Good Program,” where 1% of total gross commissions from their High Street, Palo Alto office are donated during Q4 of this year. Olenka Villarreal, founding member of Friends of the Magical Bridge, commented, “Sereno has a remarkable commitment to really embrace the communities in which they work and we are so very grateful that they have selected our cause to promote. With so many realtor options in Palo Alto, Sereno has found a beautiful way to differentiate itself.”

Since their establishment in 2006, one of the guiding principles at Sereno Group has been committed to supporting and making a difference in their local communities. Chris Trapani, founder of Sereno Group, said, “Children deprived of play opportunities fail to develop to their full potential. I believe this organization will make a difference in this community that will enrich the lives of children and adults with disabilities for years to come”. This is not the first time a community outreach effort has approached the Magical Bridge. The “Kids With Dreams” program at Stanford University selected the playground project for their 1st annual “Field of Dreams” event. Zoe Levine, 7th grade student at The Girls’ Middle School selected Magical Bridge as her Bat Mitzvah project because she wants to make a difference in her community. Olenka said, “a wide range of thoughtful, grass roots supporters have been so supportive of our cause, but we must now ramp up our fundraising efforts to meet a city deadline. The new partnership with the Sereno Group is an exciting commitment to both our community and to the success of our fundraising campaign.”

Over 10,000 individuals in Palo Alto have a disability and not one of our city’s 34 public parks fully meets their needs. Through the gracious donations of magical friends like Sereno Reality Group, Kids With Dreams and students like Zoe Levine, this park will soon be a reality.



Melodie Shubat, Media and Press Relations

Go back to Media Coverage and Press Releases

WE DID IT! THANK YOU wonderful donors! Together, we have privately raised the $3.8 needed to complete our fundraising campaign.
Playground construction is currently underway, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for early January 2015. Details for this and more may be found on our Facebook page.

Any additional contribution made online will be gratefully applied towards the many magical programs we look forward to implementing. Stay tuned for more details soon!


Sponsorship Opportunities:

$200,000 - Magical Bridge Playground Toddler Zone.
Our toddler zone is the perfect area for children ages 1-4. We have hand selected the industry’s most engaging, innovative and age appropriate equipment for toddlers of all needs, using the highest quality materials on the planet. This area will be a favorite destination for families with young children. Equipment includes an interactive giraffe, a double slide with tactile steps, custom loop climbers, a rocking duck, and more.

$50,000 - Ada’s Cafe Snack Cart.
Delicious organic goodies will be prepared daily by Ada’s Cafe, located in the soon-to-open Mitchell Park Community Library and delivered to the park in our magical-cart. In partnership with both Ada’s and Abilities United, the snack cart will deliver treats prepared by the Cafe and managed by Abilities United young people. This one-of-a-kind cart will be designed by Barbara Butler and custom built by the Palo Alto Kiwanis Club. This is sure to be a popular afternoon ritual for all. Ada's Cafe

$20,000 - Buys One (1) Mature Tree.
Bringing shade and comfort to the playground, mature trees will be planted throughout the park as a natural sun block. Varieties will include quercus lobata or valley oak.

$10,000 - Custom Benches by Barbara Butler.
Handcrafted one-of-a-kind artistic benches by the artist who has designed over 600 custom tree and playhouses - including ours! Each bench will lend the perfect touch of magic to each area they grace.

$5,000 - Picnic Tables.
Located in the picnic zone between The Kindness Corner and Treehouse/community stage, these picnic tables offer families and friends the opportunity to gather together.

$250 - Commemorative Tiles.
Still available for purchase as well. Click here to purchase a commemorative tile:
http://www.razoo.com/story/Magical-Bridge

JOIN THE MAGIC AND DONATE TODAY!

Join Our Community of Donors

Magical Donors:


$1,150,000
Peery Foundation

$1,126,000
Enlight Foundation

$350,000
Vincent and Amanda Steckler

$300,000
Larry and Lucy Page

$200,000
Case Swenson, Barry Swenson Builder

$200,000
Le Levy and Judy Huey

$150,000
Santa Clara County Funds (Joe Simitian, sponsor)

$100,000
John and Marcia Goldman Foundation

$100,000
Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki Foundation

$100,000
Barbara Butler

$30,000
Intuit, Inc.

$29,475
Verde Design, Inc.

$25,000
Palo Alto Medical Foundation

$25,000
Palo Alto Weekly Fund

$25,000
Marissa Mayer


$10,000 Donors:


Palo Alto Rotary Club

Jocelyn Alexander and Debra Szecsei

Michael and Jill Asher

George and Dawn Billman

Friends of the Palo Alto Parks

Eric and Elaine Hahn

Forever Young Foundation (Steve Young and family)

Anonymous

Tony and Kathleen Hughes

Kris Loew

Amy Rao

Sereno Real Estate Group, Palo Alto Office

Roger Smith

Robert and Olenka Villarreal

For more information on corporate matching, group gifts or zone sponsorship, please contact Olenka Villarreal at olenka@magicalbridge.org or (650) 380-1557 .