Mika’s Inclusive Playground

Mika smilingMika Zimbalist was an 11 year-old boy who was known for his zest of life, his beautiful and constant smile, great sense of humor, deep belly laughs a for being a caring and loyal friend. Mika was born with cerebral palsy, which presented many challenges in the way he moved his body. He did not let this diminish his joy for life, or his excitement for a new adventure.

Throughout his life, Mika loved going to the park. He loved being outside and sharing the thrill of the activities with his siblings and other kids. When he was younger and smaller, it was easy for him to enjoy the park activities as he could be with his mom or dad on all of the equipment and they could carry him between structures. As he got older and began using a wheelchair and walker for mobility, the woodchips that many parks had on the ground got stuck in the wheels and prevented him from getting close to the play structures. In addition to racing with friends, Mika loved to get on the play structures and to swing, but standard park equipment either could not accommodate the wheelchair or was not designed to safely support children who needed extra support because of physical disabilities.

Mika smiling in a seahawks beanieDuring his short life, Mika taught us so much about the benefits of inclusion and the importance of kids of all abilities being able to play together. He had many friends and would have loved nothing more than a park where he could easily engage in all types of play with all types of kids. His family was inspired by Mika's life to create a park dedicated to him and as his legacy. Mika's family worked with the City of Edmonds, the Rotary Club of Edmonds, and received many generous donations to create an accessible and inclusive park where people of all ages and abilities can engage with one another in a positive and playful environment.

Mika's Playground opened to the public in June 2023. This inclusive playground was designed to encourage engagement and participation by children of all abilities. Each feature offers different levels of opportunities and challenges as the users develop and grow. The playground features include: an integration carousel which is a ground level carousel with room to accommodate two wheelchairs; a dig pit filled with pea gravel and buried "fossils" and two hand-operated excavators one of them accessible to a person in a wheelchair; a wavy walk allowing kids to follow a "rollercoaster" path, a sensory garden which is a maze of vertical wooden columns and interactive musical chimes, the swings feature one belt swing, one companion "mommy and me" swing and a basket swing for multiple children to enjoy at once. In addition, there is a parkour climber, embankment slide, rope pull, and a rumble walk that provides tactile feedback when crossing. The surfacing is accessible to adaptive devices.

The artwork that is pictured on  the playground sign is picture of a tile mosaic that was created by Timothy Salcedo, Art Teacher at Greenlake Elementary School and his 5th grade class.

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This playground was made possible and came to fruition as the result of the many generous donations from Mika's family and friends, fundraising efforts through the Rotary Club of Edmonds, multiple individual donors and a partnership with the City of the Edmonds. Mumtaz and Efrem Zimbalist would like to express their heartfelt thanks to all who helped with this project. 

The work continues! The support that we have received throughout this project has inspired Mika's family to continue to work in honor of Mika and in the spirit of inclusion by creating a foundation to help other playgrounds in Washington become more inclusive. Please visit Mika's Playground Foundation if you are interested in learning more about what we are doing.

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