A little boy who could neither see nor walk dreamed of a playground where children of all abilities could play together. His name was Matteo, and the Lions Clubs determined to make his dream come true. What better to fit the 2014 Rose Parade theme of “Dreams Come True” than a replica of this playground in flowers, “Lions Clubs Built Matteo’s Dream.”
Lions Clubs International, in conjunction with the Concord, Calif. Lions Club and the city’s Parks, Recreation and Open Space Commission, created the first “all abilities playground” in the San Francisco Bay area in 2007. Children who cannot see, hear or walk can safely play alongside children who can.
The float, designed by Dave Pittman of Phoenix Decorating Company, depicted the treehouse play structures from that playground and won the Tournament Special Trophy for Exceptional Merit In Multiple Classifications.
Matteo, who had cerebral palsy, passed away on March 16, 2010 at age 11, and the float was dedicated to honor his memory.
The list attached to this article gives details on the float, but it’s also worth taking a look at photos of the actual playground in Hillcrest Park, Concord, Calif. and reading a short article about the details of construction by David DeBolt of the Contra Costa Times.
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The sign set between the soaring treehouse structures reads “Matteo’s Dream: a playground for children of all abilities.” Instead of lifelike butterflies with flapping wings, the float featured fanciful cutouts of happy animals and bright flowers. Riders were Lions Clubs International President Barry J. Palmer and his wife, Anne, of Australia; four prominent Lions Clubs members; and a wheelchair-bound child.
A playground for children of all abilities
The structures on the Rose Parade float matched the height and features of the real structures, with five platform treehouses and a slide. Mounds of brightly colored roses, gerbera, daisies and mums cover the deck. Dry materials for the playground include statice, strawflower, beans, peas, seeds, corn husk, silverleaf, walnut shell, parsley and coffee.
The inspiration: Matteo Henderson, a child whose smile “lit up the room” and who wanted a playground for children of all abilities. Lions Clubs International followed through with a foundation grant towards the cost of building the playground in his home town of Concord, Calif. This photo was taken during Deco Week in the Phoenix Decorating Company float barn.