My name is Lucas Jeanneret, and I am a junior in high school. In the summer, I went to the fund-raising launch of Julie's Jungle in East Fishkill, NY, a project to build an adaptive playground for kids of all abilities to play together. At the ceremony, my brother Paul could be heard swinging in the background with all his might, as the old, rusted metal swings went "errr--ahr, errr--ahrr, errr-ahr," drowning out the speeches by Eric Trump and others.
The fact is, Paul always makes us smile. But, because of his Down syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder, we had a difficult time staying at playgrounds when I was young. You see, Paul didn't walk until after he was 2, but then he wasn't very steady. Also, he was what my mom called a "wanderer." My mom tells me she would drive an hour away to find a playground that was fenced in so that she could let me play, take care of my baby sister Sofia, and not worry that Paul would be running away into traffic. Still, the surfaces were hard for him to walk on and there wasn't much climbing that he could do to use the equipment.
Julie's Jungle is the vision of Janet McHugh and a young girl in town, Natalie Keating, whose sister, Julie, used a wheelchair and could not play at all. This playground is dedicated to Julie's memory.