When Shane Alexander was born to Catherine Curry-Williams and Scott Williams in 1997, he was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, which prohibited him from moving or breathing on his own. He died a few weeks later from this genetic disorder. Had he lived, he would have been confined to a wheelchair.1
Catherine read an article about a family on the East Coast who had also lost a child and had turned their grief into action by creating a playground. After researching playgrounds on the West Coast, Catherine and Scott realized that Shane would have been denied the right to play with his friends and family at a neighborhood or school playground near them. This thought was the motivation that resulted in Shane’s Inspiration, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children with disabilities. Joined by Tiffany Harris, a family friend, Catherine and Tiffany raised $1 million for their dream of an accessible playground.2
Shane’s Inspiration is one of the first Universally Accessible Playgrounds (UAP) in the Western United States and one of the largest in the nation. It is located in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, California and opened on September 21, 2000. This 2 acre playground gives children with disabilities the opportunity to play alongside other children on sensory-rich and physically challenging equipment. In the fifteen years since the opening of this flagship playground, Shane’s Inspiration has helped raise millions of dollars to develop over 56 inclusive playgrounds around the world with 75 more in development.3
Many programs have been incorporated into Shane’s Inspiration. Shane’s Club began in June 2002 in memory of Shane Williams. Now called My PlayClub, they have launched numerous inclusive play clubs across the nation and around the world. Opened to all children of all abilities, they have monthly meetings at one of Shane’s Inspiration’s Universally Accessible Playgrounds. They have face painting, arts and crafts, and other children’s activities. They also have volunteers from local community groups who become “Shane’s Buddy” when paired with a child with a disability. Membership in the club is free.4
The school field trip program pairs a class of children with typical abilities with a special-needs class for a day of integrated play. Over 2,600 students and 50 schools in Los Angeles County participate annually in this program. The social inclusion education program called Together We Are Able combines in-class awareness of disabilities with an interactive field trip to a UAP for hands-on opportunities for students. The public education program introduces the need for Universally Accessible Playgrounds to the community and brings awareness to as many people as possible, generating an understanding of the need for integrated play and integrated playgrounds.5
- 1. “About Us.” Shane’s Inspiration. < http://www.shanesinspiration.org/about-us/ > 16 Dec. 2015.
- 2. “History.” City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks. < http://www.ci.la.ca.us/RAP//dos/playground/accessibleplay.htm > 14 Feb. 2011.
- 3. Op. cit., “About Us.”
- 4. "My PlayClub.” Shane’s Inspiration. < http://www.shanesinspiration.org/my_playclub/ > 16 Dec. 2015.
- 5. “Together We Are Able.” Shane’s Inspiration. < http://www.shanesinspiration.org/programs/together-we-are-able/ > 16 Dec. 2015.