The original Jonathan’s Dream playground, inspired by the Barzach family of West Hartford and built in 1996 as what would become the prototype for Boundless Playgrounds across the country, an inclusive, accessible play space for families and children of all abilities. It was a vibrant playground until 2013, when time and heavy usage of the wooden playground necessitated that it be taken down.
But now, community leaders are back at it again, developing plans for what is described as “Jonathan’s Dream Reimagined” – a new playground that will be accessible to children of all abilities – and include some new innovations for today’s children. Sunday, July 27, from 12 Noon to 3 PM, will be the kick-off for the new effort, with free activities for children at the Mandell Jewish Community Center, site of the playground.
The new Jonathan’s Dream will be designed to extend the original legacy with an engaging playground that keeps children of all ages and abilities active and moving. Leadership Greater Hartford (LGH) has convened a taskforce of alumni from its Quest and Third Age Initiative programs to help rebuild the new Jonathan’s Dream, working with the Mandell JCC.. The project is also supported by Shane’s Inspiration and Jumpstart, along with a “Dream Team” of local agencies and individuals who have joined forces to advance the initiative.
Jonathan’s Dream Re-Imagined will be rebuilt three to six months after the needed funds are raised. Donations to help rebuild Jonathan’s Dream will be accepted at the July kick-off event. The project to rebuild Jonathan’s Dream is expected to cost $950,000 and, once funds are raised, will take three to six months to complete.
The original Jonathan’s Dream (photo at right), a wooden, wheelchair- accessible, inter-generational playground, was built by more than 1,000 volunteers in 1996 in memory of Jonathan Barzach, who died before his first birthday. Had Jonathan lived, he would have needed to use a wheelchair for his entire life. His family imagined that in Jonathan’s dreams, he would have wanted children of all abilities to be able to play and celebrate together.
Jonathan’s Dream was one of the first inclusive playgrounds in the country. It led the way for the nonprofit organization Boundless Playgrounds, which coordinated the construction of similar playgrounds throughout the country. Today, more than 100,000 children play on more than 200 Boundless Playgrounds in 31 states.
It began in Connecticut, with the inspirational leadership of Amy Barzach, Jonathan’s mom. Back in 1994, she was at a playground with her two sons when she noticed a little girl in a wheelchair who could not join in the fun because the playground was not accessible to her. A year later, she remembered that little girl when disability, then tragedy, reached her family, with Jonathan’s passing. With husband Peter and son Daniel, they began the effort to build an inclusive playground, and called it Jonathan’s Dream.
To learn more about Jonathan’s Dream Reimagined please visit www.jonathansdreamreimagined.org.