Gwen Ciccozzi, a 7-year-old who lives with cerebral palsy and had a perinatal stroke, is raising money to help build Brunswick’s first inclusive playground.
When Gwen was still in her mother Rebecca Ciccozzi’s womb, she suffered a stroke. Her mother wasn’t sure if after surviving the stroke, Gwen would be able to “walk, or talk, or even be able to understand what other people were saying.”
It hasn’t been an easy childhood for Gwen. Her health condition requires her to use a wheelchair, and this makes it difficult for her to freely enjoy her favorite place: the playground.
“Playgrounds were very — and sometimes still are very — difficult. Traditional playgrounds with wood chips and climbers are just something that Gwen really struggled with,” Ciccozzi told ABC News 5 Cleveland.
For Gwen to enjoy spending time at the playground, her family would have to drive 20 minutes from her home to the closest inclusive playground. According to Leann Alerio, Gwen’s former teacher and a Special Education Coordinator for Brunswick City Schools, having to drive those distances to go to a park can make a child feel like they don’t fit in. That feeling of exclusion can affect a child’s social, emotional, and mental development.
That’s why Alerio went to the city and proposed that Brunswick build its first inclusive playground. The proposal had unanimous approval, but the cost of the playground is holding things up. According to the city, the price tag is at least $350,000, in part due to the size of the layout.
In an effort to fast-track the playground, Gwen has been raising money with a lemonade stand. It’s called “Gwennie Penny’s Lemonade,” and it’s already proving popular among Brunswick residents. As of last week, she’s raised more than $1,000, selling each “freshly squeezed and homemade lemonade” for only $0.50 a cup.
Every dollar raised is going towards the inclusive playground.