Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Taskforce Announced to Rebuild Jonathan's Dream

Leadership Greater Hartford (LGH) has convened a taskforce of alumni from its Quest and Third Age Initiative programs to help rebuild Jonathan's Dream II, a Boundless Playground. This fully accessible playground was located at the Mandell Jewish Community Center (JCC) in West Hartford, CT and built to commemorate Jonathan Barzach, the nine-month-old son of Amy and Peter Barzach who died in 1995 of spinal muscular atrophy -- a condition that, had he lived, would have confined him to a wheelchair. The anniversary of Jonathan's 20th birthday is April 1, 2014.

When the original playground was built 17 years ago by more than 1,000 volunteers, it was state-of-the-art construction and one of the first inclusive playgrounds in the country. Due to heavy use and outliving its useful life as a primarily wood playground, Jonathan's Dream was closed and torn down in 2013.

In a world where children and adults with disabilities face daily challenges, an all-inclusive playground offers opportunities for individuals of all abilities to play, learn, and celebrate life together. The new Jonathan's Dream will create an environment where kids and adults can play side-by-side regardless of their abilities.

Statistics show that one third of children are overweight or obese in this country. These numbers have grown significantly from the low single digit numbers tracked back when Jonathan's dream was first built in 1996. There are a few factors/variables that have caused this shift. One is the increase of indoor sedentary activities by many children. Technology is becoming the activity (or non-activity) of choice by children today.  In addition, the medical community is seeing a significant increase in childhood Type 2 Diabetes, respiratory problems in children, and orthopedic issues. The "Let's Move" campaign initiated by Michelle Obama is one of many initiatives to heighten parents' awareness of the importance of getting kids moving on a daily basis. In addition to the Mandell JCC's core commitment to ensure inclusion, the new playground will also maximize the amount of play equipment where the child must move to interact with the equipment. The proposed playground design, generously donated by Shane's Inspiration, will feature equipment that requires children to be physically engaged in the areas of strength, endurance, flexibility, and of course, will be inclusive.

In collaboration with the (JCC), the LGH taskforce, Jonathan's Dream Team, is developing a fundraising and community engagement plan. Jonathan's Dream Team began meeting in November 2013 when six LGH alumni came together to start turning the vision of the new playground into a reality. The taskforce has been working on team development, creating the project plan, and working with members of the JCC.  

Currently, Jonathan's Dream Team consists of the following volunteers: 

Marcia Bonitto 
Retired Employee, State of CT
Owner, Bonitto Consulting Services
 Debra M. Borrero 
Director, School Choice
 Jessica Gagliano 
Senior Product Consultant 
Lincoln Financial Group

 Annette Gaynor 
Director of Operations
Gold Coast Shipping
Scott Orsey 
Director, Strategy and Business Plan Implementation
Founder, Countme!In Hartford  
 Robert S. Rudewicz 
RSR Group Solutions, LLC

To receive updates regarding Jonathan’s Dream or to volunteer for the community build, please provide your information in the contact area of this site. Contributions to the Jonathan's Dream Fund can be sent c/o the Mandell JCC, Zachs Campus, 335 Bloomfield Avenue, West Hartford, CT 06117. 

The Mandell Jewish Community Center is open to everyone. Visit www.mandelljcc.org, or follow the Mandell JCC on Facebook and Twitter.    

For more information about Leadership Greater Hartford's Jonathan's Dream Team taskforce, contact Andre Santiago at andre.santiago@leadershipgh.org or 860.206.5067Leadership Greater Hartford is the most comprehensive nonprofit community leadership training organization in the country. It offers leadership training to individuals ranging from high school age to retirees, with community service projects featured in nearly all of its programs. These projects and the program graduates continue to have lasting impact in the Hartford region. For more information about how to be a participant or sponsor with Leadership Greater Hartford, call Katy Bannister, Senior Director of Business Development at 860.951.6161 (x1800), email info@leadershipgh.org, visit www.leadershipgh.org, or like it on Facebook.