Good afternoon, this is such a wonderful day. It is amazing to see our kids’ faces today. 

I heard the word blessing a lot of times. Truly there isn’t a better word to express what we are experiencing here today. What a blessing it is to be part of this moment in the history of Edinburg. This is truly an inclusive moment. It is special for me personally because I was born and raised here. 

Today not only marks the day that we open this inclusive park, but it is the day that together we break barriers and shatter stigmas. We give hope to our future generations by setting the foundation for an inclusive tomorrow. If you can imagine for a moment a child with a disability wanting so intensely to play alongside his peers, having to watch from a distance because the environment sends a clear message, “you can’t.” That changes today. Today, we celebrate a place where kids with and without disabilities can come together and cultivate diverse friendships where we learn from one another that different is not less.

May what we have initiated today on this playground transcend to other areas of our community as we acknowledge that we are stringer together and that by placing disability issues at the forefront of design, planning and strategizing, we ensure that everyone in our community is represented and valued.

As an inclusive play specialist and speech language pathologist, I am often asked, what makes a playground inclusive? Is this only for kids with disabilities? And that can’t be further from the truth. This is a place that was created so that kids, parents, grandmas, grandpas, everybody, regardless of ability levels, can come and enjoy together, to spend the day (together).

I am going to highlight a couple of features that have here that make it special and accessible to everyone. 

  • We have fully ramped access playscape so somebody in a wheelchair or walker can go all the way up to the top of the slide and come down.
  • We have the first inclusive We-Go-Swing in the state of Texas. (Applause) This is very different because it is not off to the side. It is right in the play area. That is different. Most of the time they are all off in a segregated spot. 
  • It has a special powder coating that is heat resistant so you won’t burn yourself. Kids with neurological issues sometimes can’t feel that they are being burned.
  • There is a communication station over there that has sign language, Braille, Spanish and English that can facilitate communications to all types of communicators.
  • There are strategically placed handholds, footrests and back supports.

And while all the details are important, what they create is where the true beauty lies. It changes the message from “you can’t,” to “you can and I believe in you.”

Thank you to the Edinburg EDC, Edinburg City Council, and Vanguard Academy and everybody else that was boots on the ground for this project.

Thank you for putting them first and believing in our children so they can grow up believing in themselves. 

Thank you so much, everybody. 

Editor’s Note: The above speech was made by Marissa Pecina, an inclusive play specialist and speech language pathologist based in Edinburg, Texas. Pecina gave her remarks at a groundbreaking ceremony for the Vanguard Academy and the City of Edinburg’s first ever All Inclusive Park. The park, named Vanguard Academy Beethoven City Park, is located at 2215 S. Veterans Blvd in Edinburg, Texas.

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