June 8, 2020
Dear Friends of Harper’s Playground,
Harper Goldberg is 15 years old today. We have always celebrated her and her life. Harper is, after all, the inspiration for this organization’s existence and mission. The name we chose is hers and the “A” in our logo is her silhouette, borrowed from this photo:
Recently we marked another milestone for our organization.
April 21, 2020 was the 10 year anniversary of the day we registered the name “Harper’s Playground” as a business. At the time, it felt very much like a formality. Merely one of many boxes we needed to check on the path to getting our dream playground built.
Many other dates have since passed; ten years since we first met with a representative of Portland Parks & Recreation, ten years since we presented our idea to our local neighborhood association, ten years since this article came out in our local newspaper about our little dream of building a playground, and so on.
For our family, this journey really began 15 years ago today, with the birth of Harper and with our entrance into a place some call “Disability World”. The gift of Harper in our lives is the gift of perspective. We have been granted the opportunity to experience the world through her eyes.
I want to share our journey through three very personal lenses; a heavy heart, a grateful heart and a hopeful heart.
A HEAVY HEART
The initial spark of the idea for Harper’s Playground came about one month after Harper was born. I was feeling powerless. Days earlier, we were told, “You should expect that Harper will never walk nor talk in her lifetime.” April and I were grappling with this declaration through the lenses of both grief and disbelief. As I envisioned what life would be like for Harper I could not keep from thinking, ‘This world can be so unfair to people who experience disability.’
It was in this moment I made a pledge that gave me a great sense of peace. I committed to finding a way to make this world a safer and more welcoming place for Harper. It was a few years later that the vision of Harper’s Playground would become the guiding force for the foundation; we can change the world, one playground at a time.
So, where does the heavy heart come in? While Harper’s Playground has made progress towards changing the world for the better, Covid-19 and the murder of George Floyd have helped more fully reveal the deep historical inequities and atrocities of our times. I will be challenging myself, our staff and our Board, to ensure that Harper’s Playground is ever mindful of and dedicated to social justice and racial equity. We stand with Black Lives Matter.
A GRATEFUL HEART
Creating Harper’s Playground has introduced us to more good people than we could ever possibly list. There are thousands of you. You have been lining up to help us since we held our first bake sale and continue to show up today.
The day that first newspaper article came out I received a call from a woman with a deep Southern accent. “Darlin’, I just read about your story and I’m callin’ to let you know I’ll be putting a check for $1,000 in the mail today!”
She shared a story with me about losing her home to a flood back in her native Nashville the day prior and about how she was raised to seek others in need whenever in times of her own personal need.
She concluded with this sentiment, “You see, it’s what you scatter, and not what you gather, that matters!” In honor of Roe Ellen (RIP) I share this story as a nod to the tidal wave of good people we have come into contact with over these ten amazing years. We appreciate each and every one of you.
A HOPEFUL HEART
We have influenced playground projects around the world and our work has touched many lives.
The impact of this work is a testament to the power of a good idea and to people’s generosity. It makes me proud of the positive impact my sweet Harper has made on the world, too.
When our first playground opened, we were delighted to see that the design did far more than remove a barrier for inclusion. Our design turned out to be better for all children, with or without disabilities. This is the magic of inclusive design. This is the magic of inclusion in general. We all benefit when we design places and systems that are inclusive.
We started with the playground, but our goals stretch far beyond there.
Thank you to everyone who has helped get us this far. Please continue to support our vision of a more inclusive world, one playground at a time.
G Cody QJ Goldberg
Executive Director | Harper and Lennon’s Dad