Our Story

It’s 2009...

A hand drawn illustration of a Harper in her walker.

Our quest to design and build playgrounds that work for everybody began in 2009 after our five-year-old daughter Harper tried to approach a play structure in her walker at the park a few blocks from our home—and got stuck in woodchips.

Frustrated she was unable to climb, slide or simply play in virtually all playgrounds, we set forth to design and build a better model and fund it ourselves.

In 2010, we created Harper’s Playground, a non-profit organization dedicated to building better, inclusive playgrounds around the world.

Our first project? Uniting our community to help redesign and rebuild that very same playground in our neighborhood.

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2009

Five-year-old Harper Goldberg gets stuck in her walker in the woodchips while trying to access a play structure in a North Portland’s Arbor Lodge park.

April, Harper’s mom, decides something must be done to fix this problem.

Initial meeting with Portland Parks & Recreation. We suggest the city should build an inclusive playground. We are told there is no budget for new projects, but would be supported if we want to take on the project ourselves.

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2010

March: Arbor Lodge Neighborhood Association votes to support the vision of Harper’s Playground.

Harper’s Playground launches first website.

June: Local television stations KGW and KPTV air stories about HP. First annual Sunday Parkways bake sale nets $1,400.

April: Harper’s Playground is incorporated with the State of Oregon. Board of Directors is assembled and fiscally sponsored by North Portland Community Works.

May: Harper’s Playground feature story appears in The Oregonian.

October: Portland mayor Sam Adams presents Cody Goldberg with a “Making a Difference” award.

Harper’s Playground receives $75,000 grant from the W. Glen Boyd Charitable Foundation.

Kids benefit concert is held at Curious Comedy Theater.

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2011

March: MIG, Inc., Girvin Associates, Inc. and Harper’s Playground lead pivotal design charrette.

April: Benefit gala presented by The Standard raises $52,000.

University of Portland women’s soccer team adopts Harper’s Playground and raises $5,000 selling “Everybody Plays” scarves.

November: HP selected for inclusion in Willamette Week’s Give!Guide.

June: Group of school children provide testimony before Portland City Council in support of Harper’s Playground. Testimony coincidentally delivered on Harper’s 6th birthday.

June: Harper celebrates her sixth birthday. Harper’s friends Stella and Colette Lauten ask guests to donate to Harper’s Playground rather than bring “cheap toys from China” to their joint Big Girl Birthday Bash, raising $670.

Roundhouse Agency designs Harper’s Playground website (v2.0) pro bono.

Art auction at Disjecta raises $10,000.

November: Atelier Dreiseitl + PLACE Studio agrees to take concept design through the construction document phase. Equals $120,000 pro bono donation.

Walsh Construction selected as general contractor from several firms competing for the honor. Equals $65,000 in-kind donation.

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2012

April: Benefit concert at Crystal Ballroom raises $6,500.

Harper’s Playground launches paver stone fundraising campaign.

Actress Courtney Cox (of Friends fame) buys a paver.

Portland City Council votes unanimously for a $75,000 ordinance to support Harper’s Playground.

Portland Development Commission awards Harper’s Playground a $65,792 Community Livability Grant.

Second annual Big Girl Birthday Bash nets HP $400.

Building permit issued by the City of Portland. Groundbreaking takes place on Harper’s seventh birthday, June 8th.

Timbers Army and creative agency Factory North partner to raise $40,000 via design show Art Takeover.

November: First Harper’s Playground opens following ribbon-cutting ceremony. Portland City Mayor declares it “Goldberg Family Day”.

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2013

February: Group of key supporters gather at Wieden+Kennedy offices to envision taking the Harper’s Playground model forward.

February–November: Cody assembles new Board and three-year strategic plan. Bold vision set of four more Harper’s Playground’s in Portland by 2020.

November: TODAY Show features a story on Harper’s Playground. Requests for consulting flood in from around the world.

December: Cody quits adidas and is hired as the Executive Director of Harper’s Playground.

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2014

Januaury: Harper’s Playground moves into Gerding Edlen Development offices.

April: G Cody QJ Goldberg delivers TEDxPortland talk on the value of play and based on the Harper’s Playground journey.

May: Owen’s Playground project in Bainbridge Island, WA selected as first consultancy partner, 2nd project overall.

June: Dawson Park Playground opens with a more inclusive design and equipment due to advocacy and consultation from Harper’s Playground.

June: Harper turns 9!

October: City Commissioner in charge of Parks for Portland, Amanda Fritz, agrees to support Harper’s Playground’s vision of “Four more by 2020”.

November: Fall Gala; 230 guests at Castaway with a net profit of $85,000.

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2015

March: HP receives official 501c3 designation with the IRS!

May: Employee #2 hired, Development Manager.

May: Harper’s Playground hired as design consultants on inclusive playground project at Salem Hospital in Salem, OR, 3rd project overall. Later named “Let’s All Play” playground.

June: Harper turns 10!

August: HP signs contract with Portland Parks & Recreation to make Gateway Discovery Park the location of the 2nd Harper’s Playground project in Portland, 4th project overall.

October: Ben Harper (for whom Harper was named), visits Harper’s Playground.

November: Fall Gala; 300 guests at Left Bank Annex with a net profit of $100,000.

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2016

February: HP signs contract with Friends of Couch Playground & Portland Parks & Recreation to make Couch Park the 3rd Harper’s Playground project in Portland, 5th project overall.

May: Gateway Discovery Park groundbreaking!

May: Design Museum Foundation features HP in “Extraordinary Playscapes, an exhibition and soon-after book featuring over 40 pioneering play spaces from around the world…”

June: Harper turns 11!

June: Owen’s Playground ribbon-cutting.

July: “Let’s All Play” playground at Salem Hospital opens!

September: Summer(ish) Soiree; 340 guests at Arbor Lodge Park, $130,000 net profit.

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2017

April: New five-year strategic plan adopted. Calls for global expansion and adoption of model far and wide.

May: HP wins US Play Coalition community grant.

September: Summer(ish) Soiree; 420 guests at Pure Space, $155,000 net profit.

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2018

January: HP Board expands; numbers and committees.

June: Couch Park groundbreaking on Harper’s 13th Birthday!

July: Major website & brand refinement Launch! Many thanks to Factory North & Andrew Ciobanasiu!

July: Harper’s Playground signs partnership to help bring vision of Anna & Abby's Yard to life in Forest Grove, OR.

August: Gateway Discovery Park grand opening!

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The story goes on...

Harper’s Playground continues to inspire and consult on building the best playgrounds possible!

Get Involved

If you’re inspired to create an incredible playground for everybody in your community, you are awesome. Find out how you can help us carry out our mission.

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