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January 20, 2010 > Always Dream PlayPark opens in Fremont

Always Dream PlayPark opens in Fremont

By Miriam G. Mazliach
Photos By William Mancebo

From its not-so-distant groundbreaking in May 2009, completion of the Always Dream Foundation's PlayPark was celebrated in Fremont's Central Park, with the official ribbon cutting on January 16. Kristi Yamaguchi, an Olympic gold medalist in ice-skating, who grew up in Fremont, helped to do the honors with Mayor Bob Wasserman. Joining the festivities were City Councilmembers, sponsors, donors, Swinerton Builders, Fremont Bank, and Parks and Recreation Director, Annabell Holland. Construction sped along at a rapid pace to meet the playground opening's deadline.

The PlayPark, located off Stevenson Boulevard and Gallaudet, is situated between softball and soccer fields in Central Park. This unique structure was created to enable children of all abilities to interact with one another on a variety of diverse play apparatus. Design specifications of the equipment are particularly directed to meet the needs of children with sensory, physical or developmental issues.

In 1996, Yamaguchi founded the 'Always Dream Foundation' to inspire the hopes and dreams of all children. After holding several successful fundraising events, the Foundation collaborated with the Hawaii Centers for Independent Living to create a successful summer camp program.

To continue the 'Always Dream' momentum in 2006, the Foundation decided to raise funds for a playground in Fremont, Kristi's hometown. After plans were formulated, land in Central Park was dedicated in 2007 followed by an official groundbreaking on May 21, 2009.

"Kids get to play side by side, no matter if they are disabled or not," says Yamaguchi. "It's a place to come and enjoy together. It's my hometown and I feel like I'm coming full circle to leave something behind for the city. The dream came true with much support from the community," she says. Looking around at the children already playing and enjoying the newly opened facility Yamaguchi adds, "The PlayPark is a special place and not many like it exist in the Bay Area or across the country."

Aside from her Foundation involvement, Yamaguchi will be busy - heading to Vancouver to serve as a Today Show (NBC) correspondent during the Winter Olympics. She is also planning an apparel line and a series of children's books.

Many donors, groups and sponsors helped to support the PlayPark project. In particular, those thanked included Always Dream Foundation President, Jim Adler, Swinerton Builders for providing construction management services on a pro bono basis and Fremont Bank for a generous $100,000 grant.

In his remarks to the crowd Mayor Wasserman said, "Kristi is a great role model for Fremont, bearing our city's name everywhere she goes. We've always been extremely proud of her and her wonderful family."

Wasserman continued, "Fremont is also proud to be a partner in the Always Dream Foundation's PlayPark, helping to turn it into a reality. The recognition of Fremont's diversity is proven out with this unique playground for children of all abilities. This showcases our great city to visitors from all over California who come here to participate in sporting events at Central Park, which is the jewel of Fremont. Now the PlayPark is a diamond to add to the cluster."

Parks and Recreation Department Supervisor, Kelly King explains, "Once the playground is turned over to our department, it becomes ours and the PlayPark has been set up for easy maintenance. This is a one-to-one trade, as we will be taking out the old playground behind it."

He feels that it's a great partnership for Kristi's hometown and a wonderful addition for the City of Fremont. "Best of all, taxpayers didn't have to pay a cent to fund this playground," adds King.

When all the final touches are finished, new bathrooms, picnic areas, and seating will be added to the location.

"This certainly looked a lot different a few months ago," says Yamaguchi admiring the newly opened PlayPark. "It took the determined efforts of individuals and corporations to make it a reality. On behalf of all the children who will use this park for years to come, thank you."

To contact Kristi Yamaguchi's Always Dream Foundation call (510) 451-7275 or visit www.alwaysdream.org.

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