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Tennyson all-inclusive park set to break ground

Daniel Aziz,
Contributor

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“Mia’s Dream Come True” is an all-inclusive park that is set to be built in South Hayward on Tennyson Road. The two-acre park will cater to the needs of children with disabilities allowing them to play and socialize in a safe environment, according to Hayward Area Recreation and Park District (HARD).

“The park will include wheelchair accessible play structures, a variety of walking paths, and quiet zones where children with autism can play,” stated Pamela Russo, the executive director for HARD.

According to Russo, the groundbreaking for the $3.5 million park is scheduled for Summer 2018 and it is expected to be completed by the end of 2019 or early 2020, which includes a $96,000 cleaning and re-grading of the soil, she added.

“Mia’s Dream Come True” park will replace an existing park in the same location that is walking distance from the South Hayward BART station and is surrounded by several different types of housing, including homes, apartments and a mobile home community. A firehouse station and clinic are also across the street from the location.

The park is named after Mia Vasquez, a Hayward resident who has been battling an undiagnosable disease since birth.

“Mia’s genetic conditioning is still not formalized,” stated her father Daniel Vasquez. “Several doctors have thought it’s been different syndromes, but when genetics are run, they come back inconclusive. There is a new potential syndrome that we are trying to get genetic testing for. The prior suspected syndrome was called Cockayne, but we also met a world renown specialist who met Mia and didn’t think she had it.”

Despite being told she would only live to be one, she has defied doctors and will turn 10 years old next month. Her father feels like a park for children with disabilities is a great way to include activities for all kids.

“We hope that this park becomes a location all people can enjoy, and we truly mean all,” Vasquez told The Pioneer. “Whether it’s an autistic teen, a childlike Mia in a wheelchair, a blind adult or an aging grandparent taking their able-bodied grandchild to the park. We hope that the park will become a place where people of all abilities can socialize and play next to each other. By having people with different abilities play side by side with people that have no disabilities, we hope that a shared empathy is fostered and extends past the park.”

Vasquez grew up and spent his whole life in Hayward, so he wants the park to be “Hayward Centric” that will include parts of the park representing iconic locations of Hayward like a water tower and firehouse with a roll in fire truck that children can play on.

Vasquez came up with the idea of the park based on the city of Hayward through a sketch he drew with Mia on a coffee shop napkin.

“Mia and I sat one Sunday afternoon at a local Starbucks and played around with different ideas for a park,” Vasquez said. “We finally decided as a family that it would be best in serving Mia’s legacy after she’s gone if the park included some of Mia‘s favorite places or things to do in or around our hometown of Hayward. So, we incorporated some of those favorite locations into fun, quirky, accessible play areas.”

“At most playgrounds Mia ends up watching from the sides as other kids enjoy the playground. We wanted to remove those barriers and give people of all abilities a truly inclusive place where Mia and people like Mia could socialize, play and enjoy themselves without barriers.” Vasquez stated.

There is also a similar but smaller park that caters to disabled children in Palo Alto called “Magical Bridge,” located on Meadow Road that is 1.5 acres and caters to the needs of disabled children. The park opened in April 2015 and they are currently in the process of building a number of other parks as well, according to the city of Palo Alto.

A “Magical Bridge” playground in Redwood City broke ground in November 2017 and is expected to open in December. There are also plans for more of these playgrounds in Sunnyvale, Morgan Hill and Mountain View according to the Magical Bridge website.

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Tennyson all-inclusive park set to break ground