Inspired by 7-Year-Old's Leadership, Ohio Town Gets Down to Work to Fund Playground for Special Needs Children

Lemonade stand benefits special needs playground in Ohio.
Gwen Ciccozzi, 7, and her mother selling cold drinks.Facebook

The grassroots efforts to fund a special needs playground in a northern Ohio town includes lemonade stands and community donations.

From lemonade stands to vegetable gardens, the northern Ohio town of Brunswick is rolling up its sleeves to raise money for a very special playground for special needs children.

Seven-year-old Gwen Ciccozzi and her mother, Rebecca, have raised more than $1,000 selling cold lemonade to hot customers in the city about 25 miles south of Cleveland. Gwen, who suffered a stroke in the womb, has cerebral palsy and limited mobility on the right side of her body, her mother said.

"We didn't know if she would walk or talk or even be able to understand what other people were saying," Ciccozzi told WEWS-TV. "Traditional playgrounds with wood chips and climbers are just something that Gwen really struggled with,” her mom said. 

The city approved plans to build the inclusive playground last year. But designing an area where children of all needs can frolic is considerably more expensive than a traditional playground. So while the city seeks grants and other sources of monies, residents have taken matters into their own hands.

Inspired by Gwen's salesmanship, other lemonade stands have popped up in the community. Amanda Burke and her 5-year-old daughter, Mikayla Dwulat, are selling the vegetables from their garden to benefit the playground. 

“I was talking to Mikayla and I said, ‘Mommy has lots of vegetable plants. What if we go and sell some of them and donate money to the new playground that’s going to be built here in Brunswick?’ And she was so excited about it,” Burke told The Gazette.

“We want to raise $1,000,” Burke said. “I’m going to have a separate container that 100% of the proceeds go right to the playground. If somebody wants to toss change in or a dollar, they’ll be able to donate directly to the playground as well.”

The play area is expected to open next year and is expected to feature wide, rubberized trails for wheelchairs and audio features for kids with impaired hearing or sight.

Burke said she wanted to teach her child the importance of community and acceptance.

"It’s a good thing for her to learn at the young age. I’m so blessed to be able to be a part of this," her mother said. "Mikayla tells her friends at school about it and it makes me happy that she’s as excited for it as I am.”

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