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For Children And Families Of All Abilities

inspiring play FALL 2012



What Inclusion Really Means

Landscape Structures’ Serious Commitment To Inclusive Play

Life Rolls On With

Adaptive Surfer Jesse Billauer


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Please fill out our reader survey on page 31! | FALL 2012


Life-Altering Experiences PLAY SPACES

Inclusive Play In The Wild, Wild West Designed by Shane’s Inspiration and opened in 2006, Brandon’s Village continues to attract even the most seasoned of cowboys and girls. BY BRIAN HEMSWORTH


What “Inclusion” Really Means How one elementary school learned that its students may be the best teachers when it comes to inclusion.! | BY LENA EKLUND FEATURE: CORPORATE INSPIRATION

Playing By Design Landscape Structures succeeds at building inclusive playgrounds because of its commitment to having fun and collaborating with communities. BY JERRI HEMSWORTH


NCIS Stars Align To Play How do actors from a television drama play every day? At an inclusive play fundraiser, actors Pauley Perrette and Brian Dietzen from CBS’ NCIS share what inspires them. FEATURE: INCLUSIVE PLAY ADVOCATE

Riding A New Wave For surfer Jesse Billauer, when comes to getting back in the water, Life Rolls On! | BY JERRI HEMSWORTH

“Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn't know you left open.” —John Barrymore


From The Editor

Life-Altering Experiences


e are living in challenging times. More and more I find myself in conversations with people who are trying to make sense of their lives. Many are going through life-altering experiences. There is a lot of heartache in the world right now and many people are feeling really low. In order to pull myself out of a hard time, I try to concentrate on the things around me that do make sense. I try to look for the positive things that I might be taking for granted on a day-to-day basis. I also try to learn something new and make sure I acknowledge how grateful I am to have done so. I’ve learned many new things while compiling this issue of Inspiring Play. Learning about Dina and Michael Kaplan’s son, Brandon, and about the building of Brandon’s Village warmed our hearts. The fact that Dina was inspired to change her law practice to include special education law and civil rights for children with disabilities would definitely count as a life-altering experience. Words cannot begin to express how much my heart swelled with emotion when I was able to experience inclusion in the classroom first hand. A visit to Stanley Mosk Elementary School brought a most-unexpected life-altering experience for this editor. All the children there get to learn and grow by playing with each other in ways that will help shape our future communities for the better. Just when people think that corporate America has gone completely hinky, we found a company that lives to play. Landscape Structures in Delano, Minn., builds very INSPIRING PLAY | 4

cool inclusive playgrounds. Not only that, but the whole place is committed to collaborative creativity and inclusive play. They are an inspiring company that makes everyone in my office want to work with them. As a self-proclaimed NCIS junkie, I was thrilled to be able to interview Pauley Perrette and Brian Dietzen who play Abby Sciuto and Jimmy Palmer on the hit television show. They took part in a Shane’s Inspiration fundraiser and were a delight to talk with. Surfer Jesse Billauer’s life-altering experience came in 1996 when he was pushed head-first into a sand bar while surfing. Now living with quadriplegia, he founded the Life Rolls On Foundation to help other folks with disabilities and spinal cord injuries surf. The greatest experience for Jesse after his accident was getting back on his surfboard and riding a wave. He was compelled to give that gift to others. So his foundation successfully created “They Will Surf Again” events around the country and has inspired hundreds to get on a board so they can experience the freedom that Jesse feels. We never know when the lifealtering experiences are going to happen. I’m so grateful to the people I’ve met and talked to in putting this issue together. They have changed my life. I hope you are inspired, too. Jerri Hemsworth Editor We want to hear from you. Please tell us of people, children or events in your community that are inspiring play for families of all abilities. Email me your thoughts, pictures or stories!

The first online/print-on-demand Dual Internet Platform™ publication dedicated to inspiring stories of children, parents, community leaders, teachers, educators, corporations and playground advocates who believe in inclusive play for children and families of all abilities. Editor Jerri Hemsworth Managing Editor Abby Ventzke Assistant Editor Taryn Gray Contributing Writers William Colinas Lena Eklund Brian Hemsworth Editorial Consultant Marnie Norris Art Direction/Production Newman Grace Inc.

Designers Stephanie Capretta Steven Higginson

Editorial/Advertising Offices NGI Publishing 6133 Fallbrook Avenue Woodland Hills, CA 91367 P: 818.713.1678 Inspiring Play Magazine is published quarterly by NGI Publishing, 6133 Fallbrook Avenue, Woodland Hills, CA 91367 Volume 1.02. FALL 2012. Copyright ©2012 by NGI Publishing. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. Advertising rates and information sent upon request. Acceptance of advertising in Inspiring Play Magazine in no way constitutes approval or endorsement by NGI Publishing or Shane’s Inspiration of products or services advertised. Inspiring Play Magazine and NGI Publishing reserve the right to reject any advertising. Opinions expressed by authors are their own and not necessarily those of Inspiring Play Magazine, NGI Publishing or Shane’s Inspiration. Inspiring Play Magazine reserves the right to edit all contributions for clarity and length, as well as to reject any material submitted. Not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts. This periodical’s name and logo along with the various titles and headings therein, are trademarks of NGI Publishing. PRODUCED IN U.S.A. | FALL 2012

the best playgrounds nourish the best in kids

Play Spaces

Inclusive Play In The Wild, Wild West By Brian Hemsworth


estled in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains, just north of Los Angeles, is the city of Calabasas. Its history dates back to the mid-1800s when wealthy rancher, Miguel Leonis, owned much of the area. Mostly grazing land and orchards, Calabasas was rich in the southwest tradition of MexicanAmerican cowboy heritage. Today Calabasas (which comes from the Spanish word, calabaza, for pumpkin) is one of the more picturesque corners of Los Angeles County. While some pockets of Calabasas have become havens for celebrities (think Justin Bieber, Britney Spears and Kim Kardashian), other parts are delightful middle class neighborhoods with families who enjoy being away from the city’s hustle and bustle. In the hills inland from Calabasas is the famed Ahmanson Ranch. Once earmarked for a huge housing development, the land was recently obtained by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and is dedicated to public use in its natural state. The beauty of the area is INSPIRING PLAY | 6

unmistakable. But don’t take our word for it, see for yourself in the many movies that used the area as a location, such as They Died With Their Boots On, Gone With the Wind, The Thundering Herd and The Charge of the Light Brigade. In fact, Calabasas has adopted the slogan, “The Last Of The Old West.” Today that wild and western spirit still lives, but in a much more playful way. Calabasas, under the shadow of the former Ahmanson Ranch, is the home of Brandon’s Village. Designed by inclusive play pioneer Shane’s Inspiration, Brandon’s Village is a beautiful playground built with accessibility in mind. It features equipment that is more than 70% independently playable for children with disabilities. In addition to traditional slides and swings, the park features a magnificent (and fully accessible) Sway Fun glider as well as elevated platforms (with ramp access), roller slides, and supported swings so that typical children and children with disabilities can play side by side. Brandon’s Village is named after Brandon Kaplan. The son of Dina and

Michael Kaplan, Brandon is a frequent visitor to the playground, and is a particular fan of the Sway Fun. The park is the direct result of the championing efforts of Dina, an attorney whose current practice areas include special education law and civil rights for children with disabilities. Brandon, born with multiple physical and developmental disabilities, inspired her to refocus her general litigation practice and to embark on the creation of Brandon’s Village. Dina built a coalition of friends, family, community and civic groups to bring Brandon’s Village to life. “Brandon’s Village is a wonderful opportunity for bringing together ordinary kids with children who have special needs so that they can play and enjoy each other,” said Michael Kaplan, Brandon’s father. “I’ve seen first hand how kids can learn early on to be very accepting of children with special needs at a place like Brandon’s Village.” Brandon’s Village is unmistakable with its bright red tent poles and flashy yellow awnings. A western theme is found throughout, with images of cowboys, horses and cacti. | FALL 2012


Designed by Shane’s Inspiration and opened in 2006, Brandon’s Village continues to attract even the most seasoned of cowboys and girls.

Opened in October of 2006, Brandon’s Village is a part of the Gates Canyon Park, which also has lush fields of grass, night lighted tennis courts, a basketball court, a fitness course, and tables and barbeques. Gates Canyon Park was not always viewed as the showpiece it is today. Prior to adding Brandon’s Village, the park was not well attended and fell victim to the usual problems of wood-chip playgrounds. The park struggled with issues of cleanFALL 2012 |

liness, wear and tear, and occasional flooding from rains. Dina worked with other local parents, many of whom were a part of the area’s Special Ed PTA (the first of its kind in California). Through community outreach and salon events, Dina gathered interest and ideas for the playground from other parents, then approached Shane’s Inspiration to help bring the park to life with their designs. This collaborative effort has become a model

for other communities interested in building inclusive playgrounds. Dina’s goal was to build a great playground, but even her expectations were exceeded. “I wasn’t expecting the amount of people who now come to the park, or the amount who say ‘this is the best park we’ve ever seen.’” The playground continues to be a blessing for the community, in part due to Dina Kaplan’s continued efforts. The K.E.N. Foundation, a 7 | INSPIRING PLAY

Play Spaces non-profit started by Dina, holds monthly “Brandon’s Buddies” events at the park. Sponsored by local businesses and organizations, these are highly successful events that bring together families and children with special needs along with other families for a day of play and activities. Brandon’s Village serves an estimated 5,000 children with disabilities in the neighboring area (which is still just a portion of the nearly 200,000 children with disabilities estimated to live in the county of Los Angeles). We asked the Kaplans if they had any thoughts for communities considering the addition of an accessible playground. Their response was, “It will change that community in a hugely positive way. It will give everyone involved a beautiful sense of purpose.” For More Information Gates Canyon Park / Brandon's Village is located at 25801 Thousand Oaks Boulevard, Calabasas. Call 818.880.6461 or visit gates-canyon.html for more information.



What “Inclusion” Really Means By Lena Eklund How one elementary school learned that its students may be the best teachers when it comes to inclusion.


t’s lunchtime at Stanley Mosk Elementary School in Southern California. Standing inside a classroom on the second floor, special education teacher Jeannie Bateman can hear the stereotypical roar of the children outside on the playground. She is overseeing lunch for seven of her eight students with special needs. The door opens and two third-graders nonchalantly enter the classroom and throw their jackets onto a chair. They act like they belong there, except for the obvious difference that these are general education students or, as they are sometimes referred to, “gen eds.” The aids in the room tell them they can help feed the students their lunch. “A different set of kids come in every day,” says Bateman who teaches third through fifth grades. “The helpers help feed the children and then they all play together. They play with dolls at the dollhouse, and with cars and other toys. A lot of times our kids don’t know how to play with dolls or cars. They [gen ed students] help teach them how to pretend.” INSPIRING PLAY | 10

To witness inclusion in a classroom, or at a school where general education students mix with special education students, is truly amazing. At Mosk, the special education students have their own classrooms, but integrate with their general education counterparts twice a day in the classroom. Skeptics may think that mixing the two types of students will cause problems or disrupt the learning process. But the experience at this school has been the opposite. The close interaction has only increased the self-esteem, tolerance and learning opportunities for both sets of students. Classroom inclusion is something that the three special education teachers at this new school have been implementing for years in their previous teaching positions at Lokrantz Special Education Center. Both schools are part of the Los Angeles Unified School District, but Mosk is a general education school with three special education classes. “Stanley Mosk was built three years ago as a general education school to help alleviate overcrowding in the school district,” says prin-

cipal Barbara Friedrich. “We started at having just over 300 students and have since grown to more than 500.” Yet Friedrich puts inclusion at the top of her list of importance. “It’s amazing. We have general ed students fighting each other over who gets to play and help the special ed kids. They love helping. Many students here come from underprivileged neighborhoods that have gang activity. What they are learning here is compassion.” Bateman underscores that reality. “During the 2012 culmination in the spring, they saved my student for last. He was in a wheelchair, and when he came up, the whole audience stood up and applauded. They were so excited for him,” beams Bateman. “There was also a graduation dance that the fifth-graders performed. The boy, who is nonverbal and blind, was invited to dance by five or six little girls. It also turned out that it was his birthday. There was a DJ there and the girls had the DJ call him up on stage to sing Happy Birthday to him. Those preteen girls were in love with him, and they made him feel like he was | FALL 2012

just as special and important as the other boys in the class.” Laura Braverman is the school’s pre-kindergarten special education teacher. She and Amelia Lefkowitz, the K-2 special education teacher, witness this kind of interaction every day when the general and special education classes merge or integrate for common subjects.

The Road To Inclusion In The Classroom Nearly 10 years ago, Braverman, Bateman and Lefkowitz were teaching at a different school. They got a call from Shane’s Inspiration, a nonprofit that creates inclusive playgrounds and programs that unite children of all abilities. The people at Shane’s explained their idea of a

was a very good partnership.” Lefkowitz, who has taught Multiple Disabilities Orthopedic (MDO) school children for the last 15 years, saw the immediate benefit. “The families of these children have special challenges from a logistics point of view with just moving their kids from one place to another. So these field trips were a wonderful

“I have one little guy in the morning who has cerebral palsy and wears a helmet. One of the little gen ed girls in the morning class literally comes in every day and takes him by the hand and plays with him. She’s kind of become the mother hen,” relates Braverman. “I have another guy in the afternoon who has motor issues. He was afraid to get up on the playscape. For him, getting up on the steps was a big challenge. Three of the gen ed girls adopted him and taught him how to get up. Now they’re up there every day just hanging out at the top. That just came from playing with friends.”

field trip program where special needs children would be partnered or “buddied” with general education kids at one of their playgrounds. The teachers just had to get the kids to the park. Shane’s would supply the bus and kids would be paired up once they got to the park to play. “When I heard that, I thought it was a really cool thing. I quickly spread the word around the school and got the support of our principal at the time,” says Braverman. “What started as a field trip for one class, over time literally grew and grew to include almost the whole school. Shane’s reached out to us and it

opportunity.” Shane’s Inspiration does a pretrip class visit to help prepare the general education kids on how to play with special needs kids. The typical kids begin to understand how their peers with different abilities might communicate, play and move. “I was most impressed at the preparation the general ed kids had received from Shane’s, because they seemed totally at ease,” says Lefkowitz. “They were truly comfortable and addressed our kids just as kids. Special needs kids are still kids, even though they may not all be verbal, they can still feel

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Education offended or hurt. I find that the younger the gen ed kids are, the more accepting they are of who the special needs child is. They haven’t learned how to judge yet.” “The coolest thing for us as staff was to sit back and watch,” adds Braverman. “Even the most reluctant child who's ready to run the other way or doesn’t want to leave our side changes. By the end of the day, our kids are saying ‘When can we come back? When are we going to see our friends again?’ When you watch the goodbyes at the bus, with all the kids saying ‘Bye Buddy,’ I think that speaks for it all. Many of these kids don't even get to go to the park. Many don’t have siblings, they rarely get to play with peers because they’re with adults so much of the time.” The communication that the teachers witnessed on the playground between the children had ripple effects. The teachers found that when the children would meet out in the community, they could communicate better with each other. They saw the power of educating the typical children about who these special children are, what they can do. Just because a kid is in a chair or may have communication challenges, he or she is still a kid who can play and have fun. This is the reality that has rippled right into the classroom. “Since we’ve been educating the other kids, we do everything together in our program [at Mosk]. That includes physical education, play and recess. Every day the kids are learning from each other,” says Braverman. ”We’re a model right now in universal preschool,” continues Braverman. “This year, we went to a county program, and we are the only ones doing a collaboration between special and general education. They are looking to us to set INSPIRING PLAY | 12

When children with special needs play on a playground with children who are typically-abled, they communicate and relate to each other in ways that cannot be taught. Schools are now taking this knowledge into the classroom and using it to help both types of students grow and learn.

up the model to show that we can make it [inclusion] work. We’ve been doing this for years, but now it’s under the funding of the county. We know what it takes, and the families and the kids are praising it.” Lefkowitz and Braverman relay another example of successful inclusion. One third-grade student named Eric, who is nonverbal and has behavioral issues, went on one of the field trips to the park. Eric was able to communicate with his general ed buddies that he really liked it when they took his wheelchair up and down the ramps. “Eric was laughing and loved it. It was beautiful how the children interacted with each other,” recalls Lefkowitz. The teachers try to step back and not facilitate the play. They like to let the children work out issues by themselves. “The kids relate to each other and somehow that connection is something we cannot teach

them,” says Braverman. “The general ed kids were very attuned to how he [Eric] was reacting through his gestures and body language. Eric was very relaxed when he came back to school.” ”Learning through play. That's the secret and nobody can teach that,” adds Braverman. This is a common view held among all the teachers at Mosk. Bateman sums it up. “This is the best job on earth. The kids are teaching us. We’re not teaching them.” For More Information Shane’s Inspiration offers a free classroom workshop and awareness program with its Inclusion Lunch Box. This curriculum helps to deepen social inclusion on school campuses. The free Inclusion Lunchboxes can be ordered at education. | FALL 2012

Join The

365 Club! Help Shane’s Inspiration bring powerful, permanent change to communities across North America!

There are communities across the United States and Canada waiting to play. Children with disabilities in these communities lack a place to play, grow, and thrive side-by-side with their peers. They lack access to their school and community playgrounds. You can help change that.

Join the 365 Club and bring the power of play to hundreds of thousands of children!

Give A Dollar A Day for Play n $1 A Day = a school scholarship allowing children to visit our playgrounds

for a powerful day of community inclusion. n $1 A Day = 10 schools receive our School Inclusion Lunch Box program. n $1 A Day = 20 families can participate in My PlayClub® this year.

Give monthly, quarterly, or annually. To find out more about all of the Shane’s Inspiration giving programs, contact Tiffany Harris at (818) 988-5676 n


The Landscape Structures team in Delano, Minnesota.


BY DESIGN Landscape Structures succeeds at building inclusive playgrounds because of its commitment to having fun and collaborating with communities. By Jerri Hemsworth


t’s an early Fall day and you breathe a sigh of relief as you make your way to the car. You’ve just put in a long yet productive day at work and the crisp air reinvigorates you. Your route home takes you by one of the nicest parks in the county. As you pass by, you smile at the kids flying as high as they can on the swings. You remember how you used to jump off into the sand when you got that swing to the highest peak. You hear the little ones squeal with joy as they rapidly descend the corkscrew slide. You can almost feel the stomping of the youngsters’ shoes on the ramp as they run full tilt to the top in order to be the first one in line to swing hand over hand across the curving monkey bars. You FALL 2012 |

see a dad playing, too, and the kids around him are laughing. He is clearly committed to making it across the bars without touching the ground. His laughter is seriously audible as two kids tackle him while he makes his way to the climber nearby. For Tom Keller, industrial designer at Delano, Minnesotabased Landscape Structures Inc., playing on the playground equipment is just another day at work— and his favorite way to spend time with his four children. “As a family, play is the number one priority for us. It’s taking bike rides, going to the park, or going on walks together. Some of the guys I

The PlayBooster Rollerside brings a fun sensory experience to Landscape Structures’ playgrounds.

work with give me grief because they will drive past one of our local parks in the evenings and see me out there fully engaged with my kids on the playground. One of these days somebody’s gonna say ’Hey, who’s that crazy guy out there?’” 15 | INSPIRING PLAY

installed more than 50,000 playgrounds worldwide. Nearly all of Landscape Structures’ playground products are manufactured at the company’s Delano headquarters, which allows for close quality control in addition to creating and keeping jobs in the United States. When Inspiring Play first learned about Landscape Structures, we were intrigued and decided to investigate further. What we found was a company with some serious commitment issues—as in it’s seriously committed to inclusive play and safety, passionate about innovative playground design, and dedicated to its employees and collaborative creativity.


Commitment to Inclusive Play and Universal Design Excellence

The OmniSpin Spinner, Landscape Structures’ inclusive play version of the traditional merry-go-round.


That crazy guy is one of the many play-centric employees of Landscape Structures. Founded in 1971 by Barb and Steve King, Landscape Structures has since grown to become one of the world’s leading commercial playground equipment manufacturers. The company has designed, manufactured and

John McConkey, market research and insights manager, explained that Landscape Structures’ focus on completely understanding its customer’s needs and goals is what has driven them to become experts in universal design. “Our inclusive play initiative, which was started five to six years ago helped us look at how playgrounds were fulfilling the needs in the marketplace. There are a lot of playgrounds out there that were deemed to be inclusive or accessible, but we found that they had ramps to nowhere. Those playgrounds may have met ADA guidelines, but they didn’t allow for interaction, engagement, sensory stimulation, fun or multi-generational activities,” he explained. “We hosted focus groups with parents while studying up-to-date data on children with disabilities. We concentrated on the most prevalent disabilities to determine the greatest unmet needs. That’s when we discovered that with the growing | FALL 2012

Top Priority For Landscape Structures And Its Strategic Partners? Community Impact.


hane’s Inspiration, The Miracle League, Autism Speaks and the Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) Foundation. These are just a sampling of the organizations with which Landscape Structures partners. Landscape Structures makes sure that each of its partners has a similar vision: To advocate and bring play opportunities to children and families of all abilities. “Landscape Structures is a product of a husband and wife team that realized the key to longevity and sustainability was in building relationships,” says Jane Jenewein, Landscape Structures’ strategic alliance manager. “That’s why the company is focused on creating relationships based on common values, shared beliefs and commitments.” For more than 10 years, Landscape Structures has partnered with Shane’s Inspiration to create

lation of children with autism and developmental delays, as well as emotional and behavioral disabilities, no one had ever really discussed how these children engage at a playground. Nobody had asked, ’Are these children even going to playgrounds to find something that can be fun and beneficial to them?’” What did Landscape Structures researchers do then? They asked parents if they took their children to playgrounds. Many responses were negative: “No we don’t and here’s why…. Here’s what’s missing…. Here is what we can’t do…. It’s not fenced…. It’s not supervised…. My child is a runner…. My child gets overwhelmed and overstimulated.” Other parents elaborated on the positive: “Yes, we do go to the playground, but my child likes to do two things: swing and spin. The more FALL 2012 |

inclusive playgrounds throughout the U.S. and beyond. They also partner with The Miracle League to create playgrounds for kids of all abilities alongside their accessible baseball fields. Additionally, Landscape Structures partners with advocacy organizations like Autism Speaks and the Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) Foundation to help raise awareness of these growing disorders.

For More Information n Shane’s Inspiration n The Miracle League n Autism Speaks n Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) Foundation —J.H.

Shane’s Inspiration is a key relationship for Landscape Structures, much like the Miracle League.

swinging and the more spinning we can have, the better.” Armed with realworld research, Landscape Structures reached out to many experts in the healthcare community such as occupational, physical, speech and language therapists, in addition to autism experts. They asked what techniques the therapists used with children and how they could be 17 | INSPIRING PLAY

BY DESIGN incorporated into playgrounds. In other words, “If you’re doing that in a therapeutic environment, could that translate to a playground?” sums up McConkey, knowing full well that intensity and frequency of interactions on the playground provide long-lasting benefits. This newfound input is what impassioned Keller. “As an industrial designer, I’m very in tune with the various aspects of universal design and that drives me more than anything else. So when we work on a new piece of equipment, I keep in mind all the children it’s supposed to serve—kids with typical development, kids with special needs or even mobility issues. I think we’ve done a great job over the years. We brought to market things like the Sway Fun® Glider, OmniSpin® Spinner, Mobius® Climber and the Oodle® Swing. These are great pieces for everyone to play on. We spend a lot of time in development of new products and analyze how every kid is going to use them.” One example of bringing research into reality is the OmniSpin Spinner. It is Landscape Structures’ take on the traditional merry-go-round, but with high-back seats and transfer points. The designers were inspired by watching parents transfer a child with mobility issues onto the spinner. In the end, they found that children of all abilities were entertained and having fun with this piece together.

Passionate About Innovative Playground Design It’s not all fun and play; a lot of hard work and attention to detail goes into every design. “Landscape Structures spends so much time INSPIRING PLAY | 18

making sure that what we put on the market is durable and safe. Safety is our number one concern,” stresses McConkey. This is evident by the amount of testing the company puts into every component it makes. After a piece is prototyped, it goes into a testing regimen where it is run through thousands of cycles, especially if it involves movement. In addition to cycle testing, engineers perform structural load testing for durability and strength. Observational research and testing is performed in which kids are invited to the manufacturing plant to play on a new piece while the engineers and designers observe their movement patterns. They observe closely what kids can do on it and where they experience problems. If unexpected issues come up, the piece may be rethought. This is also the time when safety and the level of challenge are reviewed. Designers and engineers then have the data they need to perform modifications, create a new prototype, bring the kids back in, and begin the observational research once again. This cycle is performed numerous times until all the kinks are ironed out. “Most of us are parents, and we love playgrounds. It’s our whole world here,” explains McConkey. “And yet, inevitably, with every product, we find surprising things. That’s why the testing is such a huge part of what we do.” When it comes to innovative design, both McConkey and Keller give credit to their co-founder and chairman, Steve King, a landscape architect who designed the very first “continuous play” structures. His influence continues in looking at new and creative ways of pushing the design envelope.

For Tom Keller, industrial designer for Landscape Structures, playing on the playground is just another part of his day at the office.

At Landscape Structures, design is what sets the company’s products apart. Design is seen in the form and function of a piece, in conjunction with human interaction. Yet King is always looking at design from multiple perspectives of safety and durability, compliance and usability, and, of course, functionality. “He thinks that way and views the world that way,” states McConkey. “His influence is felt in what Tom does, what our product development team does and what our engineering team does. It | FALL 2012

permeates our whole product life cycle. And that’s what it means to lead by design.”

The Impact of Dedication to Its Employees Landscape Structures has a secret weapon for keeping its team members motivated and inspired. While this company proudly broadcasts its Summertime Recess Competitions on Facebook, one would think that team-building games and events would be enough to inspire the whole state of Minnesota. Yet again, tribute goes back to King and his late wife, Barb. “The inspiration comes from the leadership. ‘Live by example’ is something we have lived with here for many years. Barb King was that individual. Steve King continues to be that kind of individual,” states McConkey. “But our secret weapon is that we are an ESOP [employee stock ownership plan] company. Every employee FALL 2012 |

believes that they have an opportunity to impact the overall bottom line and growth of the organization. They can enhance their own individual success and financial reward, and there is certainly a personal reward. The fact that Barb and Steve sold the company to the ESOP and made all of us owners gives everyone a sense of pride. The dedication goes beyond punching the clock. We are business owners, we think like business owners and we try to act like business owners.” Creative inspiration at Landscape Structures comes from each individual, not just one department or manager. Every employee in every department is regularly encouraged to bring forth creative ideas, whether for the workplace or product improvement or development. This promotes the free flow of ideas and team collaboration. Keller punctuates the dedication. “Everyone here has a career, not just a job, which influences everyone from the

The award-winning Mobius Climber is quickly becoming a focal point of new playgrounds that Landscape Structures is creating with its clients.

employees in production to the office employees. For example, when we give plant tours, we engage with all the employees so that our customers know that everyone here takes pride in their work. Employees are an important voice in every aspect of our business.” “It’s about empowerment; empowering employees results in value,” adds McConkey. “While there are tangible and obvious ways employees add value to the company, in many ways it’s all so immeasurable.” While McConkey and Keller have a unique view of the value of play at Landscape Structures, one look at a playground and the passion, quality and attention to detail are easy to see. Even more obvious are the smiles on kids’ faces while they play at one. 19 | INSPIRING PLAY
























Stars Align to Play! How do actors from a television drama play every day? At an inclusive play fundraiser, actors Pauley Perrette and Brian Dietzen from CBS’ NCIS share what inspires them. PHOTO COURTESY OF SHANE’S INSPIRATION



f you are a fan of the CBS hit drama, NCIS, you can probably imagine the camaraderie that must exist on set with the cast and crew. The show delivers a perfect balance of mystery, drama, humor and sensitivity, and television shows don’t usually succeed if the actors don’t share a unique and bonding chemistry. Voted “America’s favorite television show” in 2011 by The Harris Poll, NCIS has just begun its 10th season in prime time. When Shane’s Inspiration announced actress Pauley Perrette as its Grand Marshal for this year’s

15th Annual Walk & Roll held at Griffith Park, in Los Angeles, California, editors here at Inspiring Play were ecstatic. Perrette plays one of the most entertaining characters on the show, if not all of prime time television. As Abby Sciuto, Perrette plays a bubbly, big-hearted, Goth-fashioned forensics scientist. The character is addicted to Caf-Pow, some sort of high-caffeine drink. Abby is emotionally attached to each of the other characters, but clearly sees the rough and tumble Mark Harmon character of Leroy Jethro Gibbs as a father figure. When Perrette arrived at the Walk & Roll fundraiser on a beautiful Sunday morning, the folks attending the event were even more thrilled when fellow NCIS actor Brian Dietzen, who plays the loveable character of Jimmy Palmer, joined her to hang out and meet everyone. Even more endearing was how obvious is was that the two of LEFT: Pauley Perrette and Brian Dietzen who play Abby Sciuto and Jimmy Palmer on NCIS play both on and off the set. ABOVE, LEFT: Perrette on set and in full character with her friend, Lucas Cook.

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Stars Align to Play!

“If you want to stay,

them were clearly happy to be at the event and enjoyed being with those around them. As more than 600 friends, family and supporters of Shane’s Inspiration began their 5K walk and roll, we were able to sit down with the pair for a quick interview. Our first and lasting impression of both of them was how playful and close their friendship is. It was clear that Perrette and Dietzen, who brought his son to play, have a special bond. We were struck by how open these two were and how much they like to laugh. Inspiring Play: Both of you are in a profession where play is at the root of what you do. Pauley Perrette: [laughing] We play around a lot.


you’re here to


Brian Dietzen: Yeah, we play a lot. IP: Do you laugh every day? Dietzen: If we’re doing it right, yeah. Perrette: Yes, if everything is going right, we are laughing a lot. Michael Weatherly [who plays the character Anthony DiNozzo on NCIS] and I came up with a saying, “If you want to stay, you’re here to play.”

IP: As kids, what were your favorite games to play? Perrette: Well, I grew up in the South where we had a lot of woods. My favorite thing to do was to go to the creek that was in back of our house and build dams. I would build them with rocks and sticks. Then I would go and check on them all the time. I would keep building more. I actually don’t even remember having toys around. I was out in the woods all the time. Dietzen: I grew up in Boulder, Colorado. My parents would bring our bikes into town with them when they went to work. After school they would tell my brother and I to “Go! Go out and ride!” So we would travel all around Boulder on our bikes. And when we weren’t doing that, it was all about sports. We would pretend we were [football great] Walter Payton or [baseball great] Ryne Sandberg. It was awesome! Perrette: I was a competitive swimmer, too. I also was a tennis player. I swam and played tennis almost my whole childhood. In Alabama, I grew up next to a lake, so I learned to water ski when I was about 2. We were always in the water. It was dirty lake water which we thought was the greatest thing ever. IP: How do you play now as an adult? Dietzen: I have two young kids and we play a lot. We play every day. A lot of games with my son revolve around sports. Mostly baseball and a little bit of golf. My wife and I actually bring the kids up here to Shane’s Inspiration a lot. We live only five minutes away. We love it, so we come up here often. My wife and I couldn’t believe that one of our executive producers [Scott Williams] was one of the creators of Shane’s Inspiration. We thought that was pretty amazing. The public playgrounds, especially | FALL 2012


As Abby Scuito and Jimmy Palmer, Perrette and Dietzen have the chance to play every day. Both agree that public inclusive playgrounds, where kids can run and roam, are vital to every community.

IP: What about tennis? Perrette: I haven’t played in a while. I saw some tennis courts while I was driving over here today, and it made me want to play so bad. I have to go find some tennis courts or find a friend who has a tennis court. IP: Who were your heroes when you were growing up? Dietzen: My dad. I think if par-

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ents do it right, they are their kids’ heroes for at least a short amount of time. I also looked up to a lot of sports figures. I always thought that was a great thing to strive to be. It was pretty easy to put those people up on a pedestal. Nowadays, in the age of information, it’s really easy to tear them down, too. So I’m really glad that I grew up in a time when that wasn’t quite as accessible. Perrette: My dad used to always work at the church, so I was at the church a lot. And next door was a nursing home. It was my favorite place to go. I would go over there and hang out with all the folks. And there was one lady there in particular, Bertha Kierkoff, who was a poet. She would write poetry, and day after day, I would go over to sit and PHOTO BY WILLIAM COLINAS

here in Los Angeles, are so important. The kids here don’t have a Boulder, Colorado, or the backwoods of Alabama to go play in. You can’t just let your kids run loose in Los Angeles. It’s just not safe. You can’t ride your bikes all over town. So having a great playground like this where the kids have the freedom to run around and roam is pretty huge. Perrette: I play a lot with my dogs. I rescue animals so I have a lot of those to chase after. And I still swim.

read poetry with her. She’s the first person who comes to mind when I think about heroes. IP: Who inspired you to become who you are now? Perrette: I never planned on being an actor. I studied sociology and psychology and criminal science in school so becoming an actor was a complete accident. IP: Where did you study?





Stars Align to Play!

Team NCIS at the Shane’s Inspiration 15th Annual Walk & Roll in Griffith Park, Calif.

Perrette: At South Georgia and Valdosta State, and then I started my master’s degree in criminal science at Georgia State University. IP: That sounds appropriate for your role. Perrette: Yeah. Then I moved to New York to finish my master’s degree. I didn’t have any money so I became a bartender. While I was a bartender, somebody started hiring me for all these acting jobs and commercials. That’s how it started. Dietzen: Jimmy Stewart inspired me. And all the teachers that I had growing up. I wanted to become an actor from a very early age. My middle school and high school teachers and then my acting professor in college [University of Colorado at Boulder]. It’s amazing what happens when you find a person who has such a passion to


teach, and they pass on their knowledge to someone like me who just wants to be on the boards [the stage of a theater] all day long. So, my teachers really did it for me. IP: What inspiration do you pull from when you need to be emotionally “up,” especially when you need to be “up” on set? Dietzen: I sit really close next to Pauley [as he scoots next to her, shoulder to shoulder] and then get a little bit of energy through osmosis. [Big laughs.] And if you stay there long enough you start rocking back and forth like she does because she always has so much energy. Perrette: Stop making fun of me! Dietzen: I’m not making fun of you. You always have so much energy! [Giving Pauley a big sideways hug.] IP: At least you’re not shaking

your foot at the same time. Perrette: Nope, but my sister shakes her foot, and I rocked back and forth. Everyone makes fun of me. Dietzen: No, it’s true though. On our set, there’re always days where you going to be a little bit down. But I think we do a pretty good job of bringing everybody back up. Perrette: It was funny, because today they asked me to be here at 7 o’clock in the morning. And I thought “7 o’clock on a Sunday???” Usually on Sundays we go to church, and we don’t have to be up until about 10:30. But being here today at 7 was so worth it. There’s a family here from our church that has two daughters in wheelchairs with special abilities, as I like to say. And I was so excited about coming here and seeing them play. These playgrounds are great for kids with special abilities. And I have a friend who is a dad and a quadruple amputee. He has a 5-yearold daughter, Penelope. I’ve been with them when they were playing, and playgrounds like this are great because even a disabled dad can get up there with his kids. Just seeing everyone here made it absolutely worth it for us to get up and be here by 7. IP: These playgrounds are great for grandparents or parents with disabilities who want to be able to play with their children. Have you seen the Sway Fun playground glider where everyone on board makes it sway like a boat? Dietzen: Oh yeah, yeah. Those are great because you can wheel in and lock down and sit with them. It’s so cool. I love that. IP: Pauley, we thought you were going to say that your inspiration was Caf-Pow! What is that really? Perrette and Dietzen: [Smiling in unison] Cranberry juice. Just straight, uncut cranberry juice. | FALL 2012



he air is still and hot. Not a typical Saturday morning at the beach in Southern California, where ocean breezes normally keep the air temperate. Even though it’s mid-September, it’s obvious the day will be a scorcher, and good parking spots increasingly harder to find as the day wears on. Barefoot surfers with boards under their arms are quickly and deftly making their way to the water in time to catch the choice waves of the morning. There’s a lot of color on the beach. Tents, flags and beach towels congregate near a main lifeguard station. Surfboards are strewn about INSPIRING PLAY | 26

and teams of people are grouped together in huddles. Upon closer inspection, the surfboards have been modified and the surfers are donning different colored rash guards that match a corresponding team. An improvised walkway of cardboard and mats has been laid out from the sidewalk to the water and adaptive surfers in wheelchairs are arriving. Each surfer and his team will soon make their way into the waves to experience something that is life altering—an experience that brings promise, play and peace. It’s an experience made possible by adaptive surfer Jesse Billauer and his foundation, Life Rolls On ( Five colorful teams of 30+ volunteers have gathered up and down the

beach to await their surfers. Some are first-timers who move carefully. Others are experienced surfers who waste no time getting in. And in the middle of all the activity is Billauer. He’s surveying the crowd and talking with friends until it’s time to address all those who have volunteered to help the day’s 50 adaptive surfers.

GETTING BACK IN THE WATER Billauer knows how much the surfers at the event look forward to coming, and wishes he could do it every week. He speaks from experience when he explains, “I just wanted to get back in the water and get surfing again. I just wanted to feel as normal as possible and not think about being paralyzed. | FALL 2012

Watch The Video!


New Wave For surfer Jesse Billauer, when comes to getting back in the water, Life Rolls On! By Jerri Hemsworth Photography By Brian Hemsworth

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“Whenever I come to one of these events, I feel like a proud father. It’s great to watch everyone here get a big smile on their face just as I did when I first got pushed into a wave after my injury,” says Billauer. “It was in Cardiff-By-The-Sea with Rob Machado. That day kind of changed my life after my injury. It made me realize that I can still do the things that I love to do, and it gave me a lot of hope and inspiration.” Billauer’s passion for surfing and love of the ocean has never wavered since 1996, when a wave pushed him head-first into a shallow sandbar while surfing at Malibu’s famed Zuma Beach. He sustained a C-6 complete spinal cord injury, which resulted in quadriplegia. He lost the 27 | INSPIRING PLAY


A New Wave

ability to walk and has limited mobility of his arms and hands. But he knew he needed to get back on his board. “Being a surfer is inside you and in your blood. Being in the water is all the inspiration that I need. It’s one of the best feelings in the world. When you’re on the wave, you realize that it is pure happiness.”

Billauer’s feelings come through loud and clear at the “They Will Surf Again” event being held at La Jolla Shores in Southern California. There are laughs and smiles, and a festive atmosphere. Each surfer is given a goody bag provided by the host sponsor LoFric (, which has even hosted a free drawing for the surfers to win a fully customized Jesse Billauer surfboard for surfing on their own. As participants and volunteers ready themselves, the area becomes a sea of blues, reds, greens and yellows, each member sporting the color of his or her team just as proudly as any Steelers, Dodgers or Canucks fans. After a brief public discussion of safety and protocol (volunteers have been well trained in advance), the teams take to the water. They fan out in near military precision. Some stay on shore, others wade out to the shallow water, still others head out to where the waves break. It’s a colorful choreography that is particularly impressive considering there are five different teams hitting the water at the same time. As the first surfer, a teen, takes to his board, he’s assisted by four team members. Slowly they float him on his board out into the waves. They don’t go to the 3-4 foot break outside, but rather stay close to the 1-2 reformed waves closer to shore. Still, you can’t help but hold your breath INSPIRING PLAY | 28



TOP: Jesse Billauer (center) spends time at the “They Will Surf Again” event mingling with friends and surfers. ABOVE: Some 50 participants of all ages were able to hit the surf at the final event of the 2012 season for Life Rolls On.

when they first turn the young man around to face the shore. As the wave approaches, the four team members surrounding the board begin swimming, pushing and guiding. One unaccustomed to this sight feels instant trepidation: “But what if...,” “Will he be okay...,” “Are you sure this is… .” A million warnings run through your head. And then the teen rides off on the wave. Despite his limited mobility, he hangs onto the rails (sides) of the surfboard. All of his teammates, save for one “buddy,” are left behind. His

buddy swims like Michael Phelps at the back of the board, hanging with his surfer every inch of the wave. The teen’s ride threads a gauntlet of additional teammates, each loudly cheering him on, there if he needs help. But for this teen no help is needed. Finally, as he hits the shallowest of waters, the skag (fin) of the surfboard hits the sand and he rolls off to the side of the board. As if his life vest isn’t enough, the “land team” swings into action and immediately get to the teen, along with his buddy, who never left the back of the board. They | FALL 2012


ABOVE: This young surfer rides with a buddy and provides one of the many magical moments of the day. LEFT: A green-team adaptive surfer gets his instructions.

all, again in a masterful choreography, right the teen and help him up. All fears of us onlookers disappear as soon as we see the smile on the surfer’s face. It is one of pure joy, pure exhilaration. Pure happiness. This is what Billauer was talking about, and this is what this surfer FALL 2012 |

got to experience. For the next 30 minutes, he repeated it over and over, with a smile just as wide on the last ride as it was on the first.

POWERFUL WAVES What first strikes an onlooker is how great this is for the surfer. A day

at the beach, a day in the water, and a day surfing! An activity that was probably unthinkable in this young man’s recent past has not only become possible, but is now a reality. Looking up and down the beach, this choreography is repeated over and over. The young red team surfer, visibly afraid of the surf, is in no way forced into action. Instead, a young woman sits atop the surfboard and invites the younger boy to sit with her in her lap. She offers to ride the board with the boy, and he agrees. A minute later, he’s riding a wave with his new surf friend. It’s magical to see. Nearby an adult surfer is tackling big waves, and yes, he wipes out. But despite his paralyzed legs, his 29 | INSPIRING PLAY


A New Wave

arms are strong and he’s a powerful swimmer. His smile is just as big after the wipeout. It even appears to challenge the surf, as if saying, “Come on, let’s do that again.” A closer look at the event, one sees something even bigger. For the surfers, it’s a great day at the beach catching waves. For many of the volunteers, it’s life changing. There is a power to the concept of helping people surf that is indescribable. These aren’t people doing “something nice” for someone else, the volunteers are people giving passionately of their time, and many are obviously surfers themselves. One needs to ask who gets the best of this day— the surfers or the volunteers?

LIFE ROLLS ON Billauer knows all too well what these surfers are going through. He, himself, had to go through a “second first day” back in the water after his injury. “The waves were 1 to 2 feet,” he recalls of the day he got back on a board. “I was really nervous, yet excited, and really looking forward to trying it. We didn’t know what to expect. We just went out there and did it. It took so much energy that I was tired for about a week after. It was that day that started it all.” That day helped Billauer find a new path, one that included starting Life Rolls On, which is now a subsidiary of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. Events like this day’s “They Will Surf Again” are the cornerstone of his work, as is his motivational speaking. When asked about the greatest reward his work brought him, he recalled when a couple of high school kids came up to him after one of his motivational presentations. They told him that before they heard his speech, they were thinking INSPIRING PLAY | 30

Life Rolls On, a subsidiary of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, held nine of their “They Will Surf Again” events in seven states in 2012. ABOVE: After his surfing run with the team, the young surfer (center with goggles on his head) celebrates his incredible achievement.

of committing suicide. “They said that I changed their whole frame of mind and how much they appreciate life more. That was priceless. You can’t put a price on that.” As a kid, Billauer idolized surfer Shane Dorian. “I looked up to him and I would watch him and try to mimic him.” Now, years later, he still has heroes, but maybe less obvious ones. “I can’t be a hero to somebody else if I don’t have my own heroes.” Those heroes are his friends and family who helped him get back on the surfboard, and who have stayed by his side during his darkest days as well as the brighter ones. The greatest

of his heroes is his father. “He just drops everything to help me out whenever I need anything. I have a full-time caregiver, and when my caregiver has time off, my dad is there and never asks any questions.” More than anything, Billauer is a surfer through and through. And while his accident was a serious detour, he’s gotten back into the water he loves so much, and has been able to enjoy the sport that he’s so passionate about. Through that passion, countless others have been able to enjoy it, too. Billauer proves that life does truly roll on. | FALL 2012

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9. Which of the following topics are you interested in? Please check all the apply. o Accessible/inclusive playgrounds o Inclusive educational programs o Accessible travel and vacations o Special needs law and legislation o Companies who make a difference o Stories of personal inspiration o Activities for children of all abilities 10. What other subjects would you like us to cover regularly? Please be as specific as possible. ___________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________ 11. Please describe what you like most about our magazine. ___________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________ 12. Any other suggestions or comments? ___________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________ OPTIONAL: On occasion, we reach out to readers around the country for ideas, suggestions and focus groups. If you would like to volunteer, please provide the following: Name _______________________________________________ Email _______________________________________________ Phone _______________________________________________ 31 | INSPIRING PLAY

Profile for Jerri Hemsworth

Inspiring Play Magazine Fall 2012  

Pre K-5 Teachers: What Inclusion Really Means In Schools. Playing By Design: Landscape Structures' Serious Commitment To Inclusive Play. Lif...

Inspiring Play Magazine Fall 2012  

Pre K-5 Teachers: What Inclusion Really Means In Schools. Playing By Design: Landscape Structures' Serious Commitment To Inclusive Play. Lif...