Young philanthropist helps create a playground for children of all abilities
It’s late June, and Ava Goldstone stands at the ribbon-cutting ceremony to open up the Boundless Dreams Playground, a barrier-free play area at Robert P. Miller Park in Delray. With a swing made for kids in wheelchairs, sensory panels on the playset walls, and a butterfly garden (added just for fun, Goldstone says), the playground is a godsend for children with disabilities living in Palm Beach County.
Goldstone, an 18-year-old Boca Raton native, helped create this space. She is finally seeing the fruit of her labors as she looks over and sees a young boy, unable to walk without a rolling device, climbing up a playground ramp.
“He wouldn’t have been able to play in the old playground,” Goldstone says. “I can’t even explain in words how beautiful and inspiring it is to see him play, and the smile on his face.”
Goldstone’s efforts to make this Boundless Dream a reality led her to be named the 2018 CARTER Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy Individual, an international award bestowed on a young person who demonstrates outstanding civic and charitable responsibility. Goldstone always loved working with kids, and she first began working with children of different abilities in ninth grade through the Friendship Circle, a nonprofit dedicated to giving individuals with special needs support, friendship and inclusion.
After attending a baseball game, Goldstone began participating in the Miracle League, which provides opportunities for all children to play baseball regardless of their abilities. After every game, she began to notice that many of the kids could not enjoy the playground next to the field.
The Miracle League had begun a project to create a playground that could be used by all children, and Goldstone wanted to get involved. She spoke to Miracle League coach and co-founder Julia Kadel about what could be done and how they could get funding for this project.
Goldstone decided to take matters into her own hands and researched ways that she could reach her personal fundraising goal of $210,000. Online, she discovered the Philanthropy Tank, which funds student initiatives to help the community. As she was pitching her idea, she brought one of her “buddies” from the Miracle League, a young boy who uses a wheelchair, to show the audience who they could be helping.
“I had invited one of the players from the Miracle League to come join me for my pitch,” she says. “Just when I thought my nerves were going to get the best of me, he looked up to me and gave me the biggest smile ever, and it was just so bright and beautiful, and he put me at ease.”
To her surprise, the Boundless Dreams Playground project was awarded the top grant of $15,000. Two philanthropists in the audience were so inspired that they each gave Goldstone a grant, together totaling $40,000.
“I was so gratified by the fact that other people saw the benefits of the Boundless Dreams Playground,” she says. “It wasn’t just me who saw what good potential it had to make an impact on the community.”
Through mini golf events, grant writing and more, Goldstone finally reached her fundraising goal. After two years of work, the playground hosted its ribbon-cutting ceremony this past summer.
When Goldstone attends Washington University in St. Louis this fall, she hopes to continue to immerse herself in civic engagement. Her first step? To get involved in the St. Louis chapter of Miracle League.
“I felt that I was giving a voice to something that wasn’t really being paid attention to, and hopefully improved the lives of kids with special needs just a little bit,” she says. “I have seen how a community can benefit from a project like this, and I hope this is just the first of many.”