Children laugh and run as the sun beats down on them. Parents push their kids on the swings, and children take turns on the slide. One child falls down and runs crying to his mother. A typical day at most any playground, but this is no ordinary playground. This is the Kristi Yamaguchi Always Dream Play Park, a playground “for children of all abilities that allows for physical as well as mental development” (Always Dream Play Park).
Kristi Yamaguchi was born with a club foot, which inspired her to start the Always Dream Foundation in 1996. She and the foundation funds projects, such as this park, to make sure all children’s dreams come true. The park contains charming and colorful structures that are easy for any child to use. There is a long, concrete ramp to the short, beige slide. A row of swings includes two blue chair swings equipped with seatbelts.
The ground around all the equipment is squishy and blue. Misters are casually disguised as yellow umbrellas on the hill, and the sandbox is equipped with a water spout for some dirty fun. The blue merry-go-round is not an ordinary merry-go-round but rather a two-level jungle gym with space for children to climb inside and spin around.
The park seems small, but even on a busy day, no one waits in line. There is plenty of seating for parents at tables and benches and in a small amphitheater that could become space for an impromptu performance. At first, the parks seems placed in an odd location right up against a busy parking lot, but on second thought it is the best spot for easy access. The playground’s large structures and brightly colored umbrellas beckon to those traveling down Stevenson Boulevard.
The playground opened in Fremont on January 16, 2010 after four years of a blonde, big-boned mother in exercise clothes is watching her 5-year-old son on the slide with her mom, Cindy. When I ask them what they like about this playground, Danielle says right away, “It’s not ghetto.” They both chuckle. “Really, I mean it,” she says. “It’s very colorful and clean. I can’t get my son to leave.” They don’t know that the playground was built for disabled children. “It doesn’t matter,” says Sherry, a skinny Asian mom who has been to the park three times in the past two weeks with her 6-year-old son. They live close to the park. “It is good for them to blend in.”
The goal of the Kristi Yamaguchi Always Dream Play Park is to provide a playground for children of all abilities. Most of the people here don’t know that the park is designed for disabled children. People may not notice them, but it doesn’t seem to matter. Everyone has fun.