Yesterday I was invited to give a 3 minute presentation at the Rotary Club of San Jose. I was honored. San Jose's Rotary Club is among the largest in the nation. You can imagine how many people want to connect with the Rotary Club and present ideas, and so, there are very strict rules and they don't let people in very often. However, because Sweatin' for Sammy is raising funds for the Rotary Playgarden, I was invited to attend and speak.
I really did feel honored. The large conference room was packed. And my time went quickly. I was there to introduce to the Rotary Club at large what Sweatin' for Sammy is, but more importantly, to share why I feel so passionately about the Rotary Playgarden. I knew that most of the Rotary Club was enthusiastic about their park project, but I was also aware that there were a few who weren't convinced this park was for the betterment of the entire city and they were swaying others. This was an opportunity for me to share how important I felt this park was for everyone, and to speak from my heart. That, I did. I was surprised that my emotions got the better of me not once, oh no, but TWICE. It was fine. I just choked up a bit. But that was completely unexpected, but it all worked out. This is basically what I said:
Sweatin' for Sammy started as an event to benefit my daughter. Samantha was born with a very rare genetic condition and so, as you imagine, we live the special needs life ... doctors, specialists, therapies, seizures. But it's also a life filled with joy, love, and miracles.
I'd like to share with you why I feel so passionately about the Rotary Playgarden. Let me share a little of my background to explain. Before Samantha was born, I was a high school teacher. In my education classes in college, I remember being taught that if we use methods in our classroom that support our struggling students, then all students would benefit. And so, when I got my own classroom, I tried to use a variety of teaching methods. By the end of the year, what I discovered was that those struggling students improved academically, but they also gained confidence. My high-achieving students not only continued to receive good grades, but because of the methods used, they were also given leadership opportunities and gained important social skills. Lives were changed in a classroom.
I compare that with the park you are building. The Rotary Playgarden will be built in such a way that ALL children, ALL families in San Jose and surrounding cities will benefit. Without this park, the same children and families will continue to fall through the cracks. So, we build sensory stations, we have sand, water, and music play. We have more high back swings and ground made out of different material...and more. The kids who can't play at our parks within the city now can explore and interact with the world around them. While your average neurotypical child...he just loves going to the new cool playgarden -- a place where while they're having fun they gain greater awareness and compassion. I have found that people who have little interaction with special needs are uncomfortable around those individuals who are different than themselves. But the more interaction they have with then, the more comfortable and connected they feel with those members of our community. I feel this is more than helping a few families, but this is about knitting our entire community together. Lives will be changed in this playgarden. It's these inclusive play experiences that create leaders...this is the rising generation, interacting together, in an inclusive environment.
This is the park I have dreamed of for my family. A place where we can all run around an play. This is the park that my paraplegic friend has dreamed of for her family . A place where her wheelchair can roll alongside her boys who laugh and play.
We are excited about the Rotary Playgarden here in San Jose, and that is why we are proud to be supporting it and helping to raise funds.
And then I explained Sweatin' for Sammy a bit.
Anyway, my overall objective was to draw people to our event and raise money. Every registeration counts. Every $1 donated counts. And, on April 21 we'll be adding it all up. (sigh) It's nerve wracking, but also really really fun and exciting.