Start A Petition

Where Children Stay Longer and Play More Often

Health & Wellness  (tags: babies, children, family, exercise, ethics, health, prevention, protection, risks, safety, society )

- 1870 days ago -
When Portland, Ore. residents Cody and April Goldberg set out to build an inclusive playground for their daughter Harper, they had no idea what they were getting themselves into. Three years later, with the help of a Let's Play Construction grant,

Select names from your address book   |   Help

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.


JL A (281)
Sunday March 10, 2013, 2:31 pm

Where children stay longer and play more often

Posted by KaBOOM! on March 5, 2013

When Portland, Ore. residents Cody and April Goldberg set out to build an inclusive playground for their daughter Harper, they had no idea what they were getting themselves into. Three years later, with the help of a Let’s Play Construction grant, their community cut the ribbon for Harper’s Playground—a playspace more unique and more beautiful than they ever imagined. The project had come to an end, but a movement was just beginning. Here, Cody shares his story:

When my daughter Harper was born in June 2005, she almost didn’t make it. During an adventurous first two months, she was diagnosed with a rare disorder called Emanuel syndrome. There are less than 200 known cases in world. The doctor told us she would never walk or talk in her lifetime, but she took her first independent steps when she was five. Still, she mostly relies on a walker to get around.

Harper, left, poses in front of her playground construction site with her family.

When Harper was four, my wife and I were at our neighborhood park and realized that her choices were pretty limited. We approached the Portland parks department and asked if they would consider building an inclusive playground. They said they didn’t have the budget, but if we could fundraise, they would help facilitate the project.

One of our main motivators was to help Harper get to know her neighbors. We were becoming increasingly frustrated with the status quo of the “disability world” – particularly after we experienced the exclusion of Harper from our neighborhood school. We were forced to enroll her in a school all the way across town. After that happened, it fueled our fire to get this playground built. When we approached the neighborhood association and asked for an endorsement, they not only endorsed the project but also wanted to make it a priority for the neighborhood. That gave us a lot of faith that we were actually going to do it.

I know the parks department didn’t initially think we were going to follow through to get this playground built. But they realized we were serious, and they told us we could either hand the money over to them and they would manage the build, or we could manage the build ourselves for about a third of the cost. I remember thinking, “You’ll let me manage the build? I’m just a dad on a mission.”

Harper's Playground 'before.'

The project took a major 180 degree turn in March 2011 when we visited with a design firm called MIG. The research they presented about how design impacts a playground, how children interact with space, and how a properly designed space can encourage collaborative play and cognitive development—it completely blew my mind. Lots of people think that playgrounds are important because they help kids move their legs around and get their bodies moving, but it goes so much deeper.

The design that came out of that meeting was so inspirational, so beautiful, and so paradigm-shifting, I think it helped us attract more major donors. They say to catch bigger fish, use a bigger lure. People were inspired to be part of something that was not only about accessibility but also about better design. For example, many inclusive playgrounds use ramps that lead to a structure, but that limits the choices that kids on wheels get to make. Why not eliminate the structure and create a plaza instead? We began to understand how a more open-ended design and a more natural environment would encourage kids of all abilities to use their imaginations more.

Construction on Harper's Playground begins.

I like to call the fundraising and planning process a modern-day stone soup in action. I’ve always loved that story. We started with nothing, but we had to convince everyone that even if all they had was one carrot, that carrot would help. I had so much passion for the concept, I couldn’t stop talking about it. Everyone I spoke to about the why and the what, I had a new believer who was ready to help.

Neighborhood children break ground at Harper's Playground.

Now, three years later, we have this awesome “soup” in the middle of our community, and everyone threw some ingredients into it. I go at least three times a day—and of course, Harper is a celebrity there. It’s very difficult to find the words for how gratifying it is to see the playground in action. It was something I was dreaming about for three years. I would close my eyes and imagine it, and it’s actually how I imagined. Because of the new paradigm we established, there’s a broader range of age groups. Neighbors say that children at this new playground play more often and longer. And kids are seeing examples of inclusion that could expand into schools and in the workplace.

Families flock to the completed playground.

We hope this project will serve as a Trojan horse for the inclusion concept. We are working on a vision plan for expansion within Portland and beyond—the sky is the limit in terms of the models we could approach. Harper’s Playground is just the beginning.

Photos courtesy of Cody Goldberg.

Terry V (30)
Sunday March 10, 2013, 5:03 pm
BEAUTIFUL STORY Wonderful parents. THANKS!!!

Süheyla C (234)
Sunday March 10, 2013, 5:36 pm
Thank you

Kit B (276)
Sunday March 10, 2013, 5:40 pm

What a great story, I hope this idea catches on in many communities. Better, safer playgrounds.

JL A (281)
Sunday March 10, 2013, 5:42 pm
You are welcome Terry and Suheyla. I agree Terry and Kit.
You cannot currently send a star to Terry because you have done so within the last day.
You cannot currently send a star to Kit because you have done so within the last day.

Sandra ;atterson (59)
Sunday March 10, 2013, 9:14 pm
great story,thanks for sharing :)

Angelika R (143)
Sunday March 10, 2013, 9:26 pm
Unique concept and nearly beyond perfect-and all due to one devoted mother, Kudos to Cody! Wonderful story and example to be copied wherever possible. thanks JL!

MmAway M (505)
Monday March 11, 2013, 3:14 am
Loved this JL...Everyone said it above, speechless just THANK YOU!!!

Patricia H. (440)
Monday March 11, 2013, 5:14 am
noted, great story

paul m (93)
Monday March 11, 2013, 7:30 am

Nice one..

Ro H (0)
Monday March 11, 2013, 7:32 am

JL A (281)
Monday March 11, 2013, 7:53 am
You are welcome Sandra, Angelika, and Mm. Glad all of you liked it.
You cannot currently send a star to Angelika because you have done so within the last day.

Birgit W (160)
Monday March 11, 2013, 1:49 pm
Thank you

JL A (281)
Monday March 11, 2013, 9:59 pm
You are welcome Birgit

Helen Porter (39)
Monday March 11, 2013, 10:13 pm
very excellent

reft h (66)
Monday March 11, 2013, 11:15 pm
nice, thanks

Susan L (150)
Tuesday March 12, 2013, 12:53 am
I stumbled on this story myself several days ago and have shared it on FB. What a great story this is!

Darren Woolsey (218)
Tuesday March 12, 2013, 1:52 am
Great stuff!

Ro H (0)
Tuesday March 12, 2013, 5:58 am

Kenneth L (314)
Tuesday March 12, 2013, 7:14 am
Would've liked to see a video of it in action, but sounds great nonetheless.

JL A (281)
Tuesday March 12, 2013, 8:24 am
You are welcome Ro

Birgit W (160)
Tuesday March 12, 2013, 1:05 pm
Great! Thanks

DaleLovesOttawa O (198)
Tuesday March 12, 2013, 8:59 pm
Fabulous and delightful!

JL A (281)
Tuesday March 12, 2013, 10:11 pm
You are welcome Birgit.
You cannot currently send a star to Dale because you have done so within the last day.

Joanna M (139)
Wednesday March 13, 2013, 10:26 am
So great to hear positive news!

g d c (0)
Wednesday March 13, 2013, 7:19 pm

JL A (281)
Wednesday March 13, 2013, 7:24 pm
You are welcome G D.

Glenville J Owen (0)
Saturday March 16, 2013, 11:20 am
A really nice story J.L., thank you for posting. The sky's the limit when we apply our minds and energies to something the whole community will benefit from, and also inspire lots of people in the neighbourhood to lend a helping hand to achieve it into the bargain.
Or, log in with your
Facebook account:
Please add your comment: (plain text only please. Allowable HTML: <a>)

Track Comments: Notify me with a personal message when other people comment on this story

Loading Noted By...Please Wait


butterfly credits on the news network

  • credits for vetting a newly submitted story
  • credits for vetting any other story
  • credits for leaving a comment
learn more

Most Active Today in Health & Wellness

Content and comments expressed here are the opinions of Care2 users and not necessarily that of or its affiliates.

New to Care2? Start Here.