Youth from West Hartford and the greater Hartford area are putting on various projects and fundraisers to help rebuild the iconic Jonathan’s Dream playground.
By Katie Cavanaugh
Young people from West Hartford and the greater Hartford area are doing what they can to rebuild the beloved Jonathan’s Dream playground, a park they will call Jonathan’s Dream Reimagined.
The original Jonathan’s Dream was the first “boundless playground” – imagined and orchestrated by Amy Barzach to give children with disabilities an opportunity to play together in a fun, safe environment.
Unfortunately, the playground’s wooden structure became worn out and had to be torn down, leaving an empty space in what used to be a fun place for children to play and create life-long memories.
But not for long.
Thankfully, members of the West Hartford and greater Hartford community have come together in the hopes of raising enough money to rebuild the iconic park. Particularly inspiring are the community’s youth who are coming out to support the cause.
Last summer, Leadership Greater Hartford’s Summer Nexus program had a car wash and bake sale to raise money for the new playground.
Andre Santiago is the program director of youth programs for Leadership Greater Hartford. According to Santiago, the group consisted of 15 motivated high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors who raised about $1,500 for the new Jonathan’s Dream Reimagined.
Santiago said Ronit Shoham, Amy Barzach, and an adult task force are spearheading the initiative to build the park, but they are aided by young people who want to help bring back its magic for future generations.
“We always have students who want to volunteer,” said Santiago. “Everyone who grew up around here has either heard about Jonathan’s Dream or played on it when they were growing up, including myself. It is the job of the community to come together and to make it bigger and better than ever.”
Students such as Shara Remeir, an eighth grader at King Philip Middle School, have taken it upon themselves to raise money for the cause. Remeir was faced with the task of coming up with a project for her Quest program at school. “I studied inclusive playgrounds that are built for children with disabilities,” said Remeir.
Once she realized that Jonathan’s Dream, the town’s inclusive playground that served so many was gone, she decided to aid in rebuilding it. “I just remember that Jonathan’s Dream used to be one of my favorite playgrounds and a lot of people liked to play there,” said Remeir.
Remeir decided to hold a fundraiser at Chipotle, and raised $2,000. In addition, Remeir is fundraising through her GoFundMe page: http://www.gofundme.com/
Other members of the community have been involved with Jonathan’s Dream for years, and are continuing their support on a larger scale.
Rachel and Leah Goldberg were involved with the Jonathan’s Dream Leadership Team 12 years ago. “Leah and I played on it as kids and were aware of it being an acceptance playground,” said Rachel. “We thought it would be a great organization to volunteer for.” Now the two sisters are active members of the Jonathan’s Dream Reimagined fundraising committee.
The community can also be involved in the project by attending one of the committee’s fundraising events. They recently had a fundraiser at Sweetfrog that donated 10 percent of the profits to the project.
“Our goal is to raise awareness for the fact that we’re rebuilding Jonathan’s Dream,” said Leah. “We’ve collectively decided it’s the West Hartford’s best kept secret.”
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