Published in the March 29 – April 11, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life

Morgan Hill file photo — Child help design the inclusive playground at a special workshop in 2016.

Got a million dollars? Are you looking for a unique way to honor a special loved one? Do you believe children with disabilities should have access to high-quality, safe and educational playgrounds? If you can answer yes to all three questions, you might want to have a chat with Ron Locicero.

Locicero is one of the organizers for the Morgan Hill Inclusive Playground Project. He and his wife, Shirlee, have worked diligently with volunteers, the city of Morgan Hill and a team of businesses and individuals during the past three years to bring this project to life.

Locicero recently told us the project funding process now only needs a “trigger” donor (or group of donors) to write a $1 million check and release other funding from various sources and up to $2 million in matching funding from the County of Santa Clara. This financial flood will then enable the ground-breaking of the playground.

The inclusive playground will be located at Community Park in Morgan Hill. The city of Morgan Hill has dedicated the land and $300,000 for the design of the project. A year ago, city staff and the consultants working on the project went to schools and conducted outreach to learn what the community wanted for South Valley’s inclusive playground. The consultants then created a design with a nature-theme for children to learn about animals, plants, rocks and other outdoors stuff.

The city projects about 150,000 people a year will visit the playground. It is designed with the mission of “welcoming kids and families of all abilities to learn, play and grown together.” The playground is intended for all families throughout Silicon Valley and the Bay Area. Now the project is on the verge of being launched — if that $1 million trigger can be found.

“We are in the neighborhood of $1.2 million in fundraising,” Locicero told us. “We have commitments but we don’t have the actual cash, and a lot of the reason is that individuals and companies want to see we get to the point where we’re going to do this.”

The project is close to construction thanks to action taken by Santa Clara County in mid-February. Supervisors Joe Simitian and Cindy Chavez pushed to jump-start an effort to build all-inclusive playgrounds throughout the county. Their proposal for all-inclusive playgrounds to be built in each of the county’s five districts was approved in February. The supervisors voted in favor of a county grant that would set aside $10 million in funding for playgrounds built to be truly accessible for children and parents with disabilities.

More than 10,000 children in our county have major disabilities, including many in Morgan Hill, San Martin and Gilroy. Unfortunately, our county parks, city and school playgrounds are not fully accessible to many of these children as well as others with disabilities. However, the trend to build inclusive playgrounds is helping fill this need.

Two years ago, Locicero took Morgan Hill Life Publisher Marty Cheek on a tour of the Tatum’s Garden playground in Salinas. He was impressed by the high quality of the playground and the community’s commitment to making it a place for all children to play together. In recent years, the Rotary PlayGarden in San Jose and the Magical Bridge Playground in Palo Alto have opened their doors for children with both physical and cognitive disabilities.

The two local playgrounds are visited by families from the South Valley region. But many others can’t go there because of the long travel distance. That’s why we believe it’s a smart decision made by the supervisors to provide the funding for more inclusive playgrounds, including the one intended for Community Park. While not every city in the county can build an inclusive playground, each region in our county can ensure that families with disabilities have a place to play close to home. Families both with and without disabilities drive for miles to experience these parks. This will give them the same opportunities in the communities where they live.

For the grants, $5 million will be allocated from the 2012 Measure A reserve, with an additional $5 million coming from Excess Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund funds. The funding would be used on a matching basis for the construction of one or two all-inclusive playgrounds in each of the five districts. To get access to all that government and private money needed to start work on the playground, the Morgan Hill project organizers are now seeking someone with deep pockets and a generous heart to donate $1 million.

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“We need a trigger amount. We need a major donor,” Locicero said. “We’re working with some major donors, but they haven’t committed yet. We would like to have some donors from the Morgan Hill, Gilroy and Hollister area.”

And what might that special donor receive in return for the $1 million? Naming rights. With approval by the Morgan Hill City Council, the inclusive playground would be named after an individual, family or possibly a company that puts up the final funding.

One million dollars, of course, is a lot of money. Our intention with this editorial is to plant the seed in someone’s mind to provide that funding. If you are that special someone with a big bank account and the heartfelt desire to honor a loved one by funding one of America’s best inclusive playgrounds built right here in the South Valley, we encourage you to call Ron Locicero. His phone number is (408) 710-0570 and his email is ronlocicero@hotmail.com.

Your $1 million gift will no doubt help bring smiles and laughter to children who will spend a lot of fun time with their families at Morgan Hill’s inclusive playground when it is built.