In 1994, Amy Barzach was playing with her two sons when she noticed a little girl in a wheelchair, crying, unable to join in because the playground wasn’t accessible to her.
The next year, when a disability changed the way her own child, Jonathan, could play, Amy remembered that little girl and, with her husband Peter and other son Daniel, decided to build an inclusive playground to honor him and called it Jonathan’s Dream.
Jonathan’s Dream opened in 1996 after a massive community build on the campus of the Mandell Jewish Community Center (JCC) in West Hartford, CT. The structures were assembled by hand and were made primarily out of wood.
Jonathan’s Dream quickly became a mecca for children of all abilities. At its peak, Jonathan’s Dream saw carloads of children arriving through its rainbow entrance to an expansive, imaginative playscape.
Time magazine wrote an article about Jonathan’s Dream and soon hundreds of requests poured in from individuals, organizations, schools, and nonprofits interested in creating an inclusive playground for their own communities. Amy went on to found Boundless Playgrounds, a nonprofit that has since built over 200 accessible playgrounds in the U.S. and Canada.
Sadly, weather and heavy use eventually took its toll on Jonathan’s Dream, which closed in the spring of 2013.
The JCC and the Barzach family were not deterred. They planned to modernize the playground and reached out to the community for help. One of the first people to say “yes” was Ronit Shoham, the person involved with many of the amazing things that happen in West Hartford. The Leadership Greater Hartford (LGH), a community oriented non-profit with a focus on developing, connecting and inspiring diverse leaders to build strong and vibrant communities, brought it’s alumni into the partnership.
Shane’s Inspiration had the profound honor of being asked to join this effort. Through collaborative planning support and playground design, Jonathan’s Dream, which inspired our very first inclusive playground, has been reimagined. This sensory-rich, creative environment inspires play, enrichment, and development for children of all abilities.
We could not be more grateful to walk on this journey with the Barzach family and the incredible legacy that Jonathan gave us: a place where ALL children are honored as they are.