When San Diego couple Hanna and Mark Gleiberman discovered the city of San Diego lacked an inclusive and accessible playground, they knew they had to do something about it. The couple recently donated $1 million to the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center (LFJCC) Jacobs Family Campus to build a fully accessible playground at the city’s Mandell Weiss Eastgate Park.
The playground will meet critical child development milestones by offering a wide variety of activities that support a child’s physical, cognitive, social, and sensory needs. Additionally, it will allow adults with disabilities to play with their own children in a fully accessible way, officials said.
The couple, who have three children of their own, said they hope the playground will build “camaraderie among kids and to provide an opportunity for all parents to be able to play with their children.”
“All parents want their children to feel included and to be part of a peer group,” said Mark, the CEO of San Diego-based real estate investment firm, MG Properties Group. “Our hope with the playground is that more similarities will be seen between peers playing together. They can become friends and continue those friendships in the classroom and at other social events.”
Hanna Gleiberman, a former teacher, said it’s important to boost the “self-esteem and self-image of children.”
“We know the importance of feeling included by peers,” she said. “We decided to make this donation to bring joy into the world and to enhance friendships between non-disabled and disabled individuals. Our hope for children with special needs is that they will have an opportunity to have more fun and joy in life and the opportunity to play with the other kids in their classrooms and neighborhoods. Playing freely also reduces stress for kids and helps encourage exercise which is important for everyone. When kids play together they make new friends and stop seeing differences, but instead start seeing commonalities.”
Officials said construction of the playground will begin in the fall. It will also be open to the public.
“Hanna and Mark’s incredible gift is a true inspiration. It truly comes at the intersection of philanthropy and vision,” said Betzy Lynch, CEO of the Lawrence Family JCC of San Diego County – Jacobs Family Campus, where the Gleiberman’s have been members for decades. “Hanna and Mark’s passion and commitment to our work in the inclusion of people with disabilities into all of our programs and services will allow us to celebrate 25 years of inclusion services and allows us to build the first fully accessible and inclusive playground in our city.”
Although this will be just one park in the city, Mark Gleiberman said he hopes it inspires others to build inclusive environments.
“We are focused now on building the first [accessible park] with the hope that it will inspire others to consider doing the same playground builds or renovations in different parts of the city,” he said.
For more information about the park or the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, go to lfjcc.org.