Story of Impact: Shane’s Inspiration

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on April 17, 2018 # Quality of Life

Getting back into the community is one of the hardest hurdles to life after sustaining a spinal cord injury.

“There is often a strong feeling of isolation and the ability to socialize is so important, especially for kids,” said Tiffany Harris, founder and CEO of Shane’s Inspiration, an organization located in Sherman Oaks, Ca, that partners with global communities to design and develop inclusive playgrounds and social programing.

Founded in honor of Shane Alexander Williams who was born with spinal muscular atrophy and passed away two weeks later, Shane’s Inspiration built their first playground in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park in 2000. Since then, the organization has built 63 inclusive playgrounds throughout the world, including eight international playgrounds in Mexico, Israel, Canada, Ecuador and Russia, with another 75 in development.

“When we started this organization 20 years ago, there were no truly accessible playgrounds in the western United States. The original playground was a memorial project designed to allow children with disabilities to play with their peers but the playground wasn’t getting much use,” said Harris. “What we quickly realized was that we needed to add programing elements to effect change. We wanted to build inclusive playgrounds, not just accessible playgrounds.”

Over the years, the organization has added a variety of education and engagement programs including a transportation program to help families get to the playground and My Play Club, a free monthly program hosted by volunteers for children of all abilities to come together on a busy day and play.

Will Reeve and long-time Reeve Foundation supporter Dave Annable recently visited the Rocket’s Universe, a space-themed inclusive playground in Los Angeles, CA, made possible by Shane’s Inspiration. While they were there, a field trip was underway where children participate in a three-day social inclusion program to learn how to better communicate with their peers of all abilities through play.

“The core of what we are doing is to create social interaction. Everyone is a child first, we are all just differently abled,” said Harris. “Our playgrounds are designed to be equally challenging for typically developing children and those with special needs. We create a stimulating, engaging and safe place for kids of all abilities to interact.”

Shane’s Inspiration has received a number of Reeve Foundation Quality of Life Grants over the years to help support several of its programs. Most recent grants help support Together We Are Able, a social inclusion education program for grade-school students. The program includes an awareness workshop to dispel misperceptions about disabilities and an interactive field trip that pairs students with and without disabilities. The program was designed to build social bridges and reduce bias and bullying, and to ensure as many children could experience and enjoy the inclusive playground.

“The feedback from our education programs goes right back into the playground design so the process is full circle,” said Harris. “The parlay effect of the Reeve Foundation’s investment is profound and we are profoundly grateful.”