|Leo’s Haven Builds a Playground… and Bridges|
|Written by Kim Allen|
Never underestimate the power of a couple of inspired kids. Tricia Potts, founder of the Santa Cruz Playground Project, was skeptical when a brother and sister came to her at a fundraiser with their plan.
“They came to me and said, ‘We want to raise a thousand dollars through cookie sales.’ I was thinking, ‘Oh my word, really?’”
“They went to Newman’s Own and asked for donations,” Potts says. “They raised their thousand dollars. It was exciting to see them get their friends and family involved.”
Potts was inspired to create the Playground Project when she saw her three children—including her youngest who uses a wheelchair—playing together at an inclusive playground in Salinas.
Since we featured the Playground Project a year ago in GUiSC, exciting things have happened. The group got community input for developing Chanticleer Park in Live Oak, got their conceptual designs approved by the County, and kicked off their capital campaign in June. Local Rotary Clubs and Lions Clubs are planning fundraising efforts. The County, in order to encourage further donations, is now offering an additional $250,000 match challenge.
But perhaps most exciting are the bridges that have been built: The Playground Project has joined with the Live Like Coco Foundation to strengthen their shared interest in offering opportunities for children to get involved in our community.
The Live Like Coco Foundation was formed in honor of Coco Lazenby, a local child who died in an automobile accident. Tricia Potts and Coco’s mother, Kate Pavao, initially bonded over shared tragedy, but soon found that they had common goals.
The Live Like Coco Foundation and the Playground Project are joining forces to offer a new kind of fundraiser that will not only involve children, but encourage them to be an active part of the community. Their first series of fundraisers will be “Reading Flash Mobs,” where children will come together and read for the cause.
"Tricia and I designed these fundraisers so that kids could help their community without selling anything or asking their families for donations,” explains Kate. “We wanted to put the emphasis on participating, to say that when it comes to service, showing up is what matters most."
The first Flash Mob will be at Bookshop Santa Cruz on February 14.
“We chose Valentine's Day to launch this fundraising series because it really captures that this is about love,” Kate says. “A love for reading, a love for spending time with friends and family, and a love for our community.”
Tricia says that there is a silver lining experienced by families whose children suffer illness or death. “Finding other parents that are going through the same things, that’s what’s really cool,” she says, explaining that parents in these situations often feel isolated.
And when families, whether they have experienced tragic circumstances or not, come together, the entire community benefits. Potts points out that the park project is bringing together dog owners and pump track enthusiasts, as well.
"Coco's favorite thing in the world was to sit around reading books with her friends,” Kate remembers. “She would have loved these events—especially knowing that by reading she was helping fund important projects in her community. I am hoping that other kids will find it just as fun to join our Reading Flash Mobs."
Join the first "Reading Flash Mob" at Bookshop Santa Cruz on February 14 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.:
*Bookshop Santa Cruz is also sponsoring this launch event.
*Kids must be chaperoned. Families are invited to come read together.
*Kids will also be given a "Reading Passport," which they can decorate and bring to each of our five events; if they come to three or more of our Reading Flash Mobs they can earn a free book from the Live Like Coco Foundation.
* Kids can also enter a drawing at every "mob" for a $100 gift certificate to Bookshop Santa Cruz, to be given to their school library on their behalf.
For more information:
Visit the Live Like Coco Foundation at livelikecoco.com
Visit the Santa Cruz Playground Project at www.santacruzplaygroundproject.org
Suki Wessling is a local writer and the mother of two children. Her forthcoming book is about goal-setting with teens. Read more at www.SukiWessling.com.