Idea for playground touched by an 'Angel'

Angel Hansen, 3, might never be able to run around in a sandbox, jump

off a swing or climb up a slide on her own. But that doesn't mean she

can't or doesn't want to play. She can still smile, laugh and enjoy


Angel was born with multiple birth defects. She cannot walk. And

yet her inability has been transformed into a powerful idea, which

will lead to the ability of her and other children to simply be

themselves -- to play.

Angel's parents, Doug and Jennifer Hansen, lamented the void of

local playgrounds that cater to disabled children. But in an effort

worth touting once more on these pages, the couple suggested to city

officials the construction of such a playground in Costa Mesa. They

even offered to pay for the equipment through a Newport Beach-based

charity they set up in honor of Angel. The charity's website is

Receptive city officials liked the idea and are now eyeing

TeWinkle Park for a playground designed for disabled children to play

with their friends and family. It would include swings and slides,

but with its rubberized floor surface and specialized ramps, paneling

and Braille features, its amenities would go beyond the minimum

requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The idea, at first glance, may seem small, compared to the larger

scheme of city and county business. But in other ways, it belies

Angel's small size.

Financially, it seems a good fit for a city that now can piggyback

on the Hansens' vision to make further improvements to a city park. A

project that was $250,000 could become $1 million. And because the

project is eligible for a state grant of up to $1 million, the city

will use the grant opportunity to improve nearby facilities, such as

restrooms and picnic shelters. The Hansen family's charity will try

to raise $300,000 in matching funds required by the grant; the city

will use the charity's funds to increase its chances of getting the

grant; and the Costa Mesa Community Foundation is helping to raise

money. Officials hope approval of the grant comes in the next six


The effort reminds us that a community does listen to its better

angels. That playground can be a microcosm of a world where the needs

of children like Angel are more accounted for and where parents like

the Hansens aren't at a loss to simply take their child to a place to

play. It reminds us, and lends hope for a world where children are

exposed to other children with physical and developmental differences

at an early age -- an interaction that perhaps can only help make for

a better community and world. Costa Mesa is a diverse place, and this

idea stays a step ahead of that.

Utopian? Pie-in-the-sky, you say? Some loving parents, a community

foundation and a receptive city seem to be making it happen, even if

it starts on a slide or swing set. Let's play!

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