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North Royalton Family has Wish Granted for Son by Make-A-Wish
North Royalton Family has Wish Granted for Son by Make-A-Wish North Royalton residents Jocelyn and Charles Stella are the parents of four children. Their oldest child, Charlie, is 5 ½ years old and suffers from numerous acquired disorders, such as Spastic Quadriparesis Cerebral Palsy, Refractory Epilepsy, Secondary Dystonia, Dysphagia and Cortical Vision Impairment. Last summer, the Stella family reached out to the local chapter of Make-a-Wish Ohio, Kentucky & Indiana with a special request of installing an inclusive play area on the grounds of Royal View Elementary by the current playground. At first, a “playground cruiser” was the only piece of equipment to be added to the current school playground. However, after a year of additional planning, a complete inclusive playground will be installed at the elementary school thanks to Make-A-Wish, North Royalton City Schools, and Snider Recreation.

Charlie’s family decided to start a non-profit foundation to raise the remainder of the funds to build an entire playground, with various pieces of equipment that the whole community could enjoy. The Stella’s have formed The Charlie Stella Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization that will work to provide additional equipment to Charlie’s inclusive playground at Royal View Elementary, as well as separate inclusive playgrounds and equipment to schools in Ohio to connect children of all abilities. In the family’s letter to Make-a-Wish, they stated, “An inclusive place to play would provide a place of repeated enjoyment. Charlie would have a place to have fun, make friends, include and be included. This would not only benefit Charlie, but all other children as well. The opportunity to be remembered for making a difference, for leaving the world a little better than he found it, that is Charlie’s wish.”

When Make-a-Wish received the Stella family’s letter and began to do research, they knew that the one piece of playground equipment was not enough to fulfill Charlie’s one true wish. With the help of Snider Recreation and North Royalton City Schools, Jocelyn and Charles, Sr. Stella were told this past May during a surprise announcement that Make-A-Wish was going to grant Charlie’s most heartfelt wish. “Now, not only Charlie, but other children who have disabilities in the community, will have the opportunity to interact and enjoy the whole playground at Royal View Elementary with other children,” said Lisa White, Wish Program Manager for Make-A-Wish Northeast Ohio Region.

“This is our dream for our son and for our community. What a wonderful addition this playground will be,” said Jocelyn. “We now have a place to go with Charlie right in the community that we live.”

“Inclusive play is so important to all kids. This is an opportunity for all children to interact and play together in a stress free and happy place,” said Lisa White, Wish Program Manager for the local chapter of Make-A-Wish. “We are delighted to make this dream a reality for not only the Stella family, but the entire community.”

With enough room for two wheelchairs and two full benches, the Cruiser / Wheelchair Rocker portion of the playground will allow up to 12 children of all abilities to play together. The handles at both ends allow adults or other children to assist with motion and enjoy the experience. The other parts of the playground will have challenging fitness-oriented equipment to help the children stay active and engaged. It will have ramps for wheelchairs. The playground will have the ability for expansion as well.

“Snider Recreation’s philosophy is Play For Everyone,” said owner Jeff Snider. “We try our best to help guide playground designs that promote a focus on inclusive play so children of all abilities can play together in a safe and comfortable environment. We are very honored to be involved with Charlie’s wish and helping create an inclusive environment for him and all the children who will use the playground.”

Working along with Snider Recreation, North Royalton City School’s maintenance department will work on the installation beginning in June. The goal is for the playground to open by the beginning of the 2015-16 school year. “I want to thank the Stella Family and the Make-A-Wish for their generous donation to our school facility,” said Greg Gurka, superintendent of North Royalton City Schools. “This donation will allow all of our students and all of the children in our community, whether special needs or typical peers, to play and learn together.”

“What defines our son the most is his strength, bravery, resilience and beautiful spirit,” said Charlie, Sr. “Sadly, many people fail to see through the clouds created by these disorders, leaving them unable to view Charlie as the incredible young boy that he truly is. Our hope is that one day soon people will take the opportunity to understand that Charlie differs from them only in abilities. This playground can be a chance to make this happen for not only Charlie, but so many other children in our community. This is what we were hoping for and envisioned. We knew it was not going to be easy, but were determined to raise the funds. Make-A-Wish and the North Royalton City Schools just made it a whole lot easier.”