When Olenka Villareal discovered that her daughter was having developmental challenges, she was dismayed with the state of their local Palo Alto, CA, parks. Though well-meaning, the playgrounds weren’t truly accessible to her daughter. And so began her crusade to create Magical Bridge, a playground for all abilities. We are proponents of imaginative outdoor play for ALL kids, so we were excited to be a part of this ground-breaking project right from the start.
In 2011, when Barbara first met Olenka at the bi-annual Dreams Happen playhouse auction, Magical Bridge was only a beautiful concept, lacking both funding and a team. Barbara loved the concept and threw her wholehearted support behind the cause, starting with the donation of the Country Cottage Playhouse for an auction benefiting Friends of The Magical Bridge. The playhouse was wheeled along in local parades and displayed at the local library to make folks aware of the project, then was auctioned off to raise funds to make it a reality.
Four years later, as part of the Magical Bridge Playground team, Barbara donated over 160 design hours to help create the country’s first completely accessible playground. Barbara’s job: to design, build and install the two-story Playhouse with Theater Stage, Elevated Walkways, Magical Bridge and Treehouse. And while it might sound like a tall order to make a two-story playhouse that is fully accessible to a child (or parent) in a wheelchair, Barbara managed to create a design that is just as charming and whimsical as any project she’s done.
And there’s more. The Magical Treehouse built around an existing Stony Pine tree will be fully donated by Barbara Butler Artist-Builder Inc ⎯ labor, parts, and imagination. We will also donate $5,000 in custom play accessories, so please stay tuned to see what designs Barbara comes up with!
Barbara has been an active team member at the overall park design meetings and was proud to participate in the groundbreaking ceremony earlier this year.
Pieces of the Magical Bridge are coming to life in our shop and will soon be brought on-site for installation. Then comes our favorite part of any project we do: the moment when grinning children stream toward the playground, ready to test out our creation!