Giving Children of All Abilities a Place to Play
Liz Lamach wanted what all moms want – a safe place for her son to play with other kids. But her son Matteo has cerebral palsy. And most playgrounds don’t have the ramps or the space he needs to move his wheelchair.
Concord, California, USA
The Lions Step In
Liz was determined to find a way to create a place where children of all abilities could come together and play. After some research, Liz began to plan for a new playground. But with a cost of nearly US$750,000, it would take a lot more than she could give.
Liz rallied the local Lions, and with a generous US$75,000 grant from LCIF, the project began. Lions from 45 clubs went on to raise almost US$500,000. They also joined forces with other community groups to build the park themselves. In just eight days, 3,000 volunteers erected the 12,000 square foot playground. Ron Hudson from the Dawn Breakers Lions Club was one of them. “I spent eight days building Matteo’s Dream,” he said, “and it was the best thing I have ever done in my life.”
Open to Everyone
When “Matteo’s Dream: A Playground for Children of All Abilities” opened to the public, local parents like Tamara Borba were elated. They finally had a place where their children could play alongside siblings with special needs. “To have Matteo’s Dream in our neighborhood is wonderful,” said Borba. “Both my kids can play. Nicky can be set free. He can wheel himself up and down the ramps and play with everything.” Laura Hoffmesiter, the former mayor of Concord, added, “The dream really did become a reality. And we hope this can become a model for other communities.”
This project reestablished the Concord Lions Club with Liz as the charter president. The Concord Lions Club not only maintains the playground – but it also holds club meetings there.
Tips and Tools
Make It Happen: How to Build a Playground for All Abilities
Where did you start? »
I told Concord's mayor about my wish to build an accessible playground, and then received a call from the city’s parks director. I had collected pictures of existing playgrounds. But I needed more help, and approached the Ambrose Lions Club because they knew how to get things done.
How did you find the design and materials? »
It took years! I spoke to many playground equipment companies and none were willing to redesign their pre-molded equipment. Eventually, I found Leathers and Associates from Ithaca, New York. Leathers was willing to allow us to come up with a totally new design, and helped to make it safe and accessible.
How did you fund the project? »
Matteo’s Dream was funded mostly through grants, including a LCIF grant for US$75,000. In addition, almost every club in the district contributed along with individual contributions from Lions members. Club members also worked at street fairs and talked to many people to raise funds.
How did you enlist other clubs? »
Bill Ridle, who was the Lions district governor, attended a meeting at the Ambrose Lions Club where I was going over the playground project. Bill decided to make Matteo’s Dream a district project and enlisted the help of the other clubs.
How long did it take? »
Any special words of advice? »
Be patient and don't give up.
"I went to the Lions club and said, ‘Hey, I’ve got this crazy idea and I need a lot of help.’ And they jumped right in. With both feet!"
"The Lions club rose to the occasion and led the charge."
Former Mayor of Concord, California
"The power of Lions is the ability to pull together our resources to bring together people of different backgrounds so we can work together on one single project. And by doing that we are serving our community. By serving our community we serve the world."
Oakland Montclair Lions Club