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7's HERO: Eagle mom starts push for a wheelchair accessible playground at her daughter's elementary school

Katie Stewart wants her daughter to be able to play with her friends on the playground at school, but right now the playground isn't wheelchair accessible.

EAGLE, Idaho — Juliet Stewart of Eagle will steal your heart. She is four-years-old, she uses a wheelchair, and she'll be the first to tell you how fast she is on her tiny set of wheels! 

"I can go really, really fast," said Juliet Stewart. 

Her mom, Katie Stewart, said everywhere Juliet goes, she draws attention. She's just that kind of a kid, filled with joy and sunshine. 

"She made a friend at the grocery store just yesterday! She really has a big personality and she gives the best hugs," Katie said with a beaming smile. "She's a real sweetheart.

Juliet was born with spina bifida, a condition that can cause paralysis

"When we were given her diagnosis, we were completely devastated. We were told that she may never walk and she may have cognitive delays as well, but we really didn't know what to expect and we were totally scared," said Katie. "If I could go back to my former self, and give myself a glimpse of today, I would not be worried at all. Life with her is more amazing than I could have ever imagined!"

Juliet is the only girl in a family of brothers. 

"I have three brothers, Collin, Court and Will," said Juliet.

Credit: The Stewart Family
The Stewart family lives in Eagle. Juliet Stewart is the only girl, she has three doting older brothers who adore her.

She goes to the developmental preschool at Seven Oaks Elementary in Eagle. She loves to zip around the black top in her wheelchair. But, the playgrounds at her school are not fully accessible for kids with disabilities, or special needs. 

"She loves school, and she has lots of friends and she has great teachers, but the playground is really difficult for her because it's a place in her school experience where she is just not able to participate fully," said Katie. "Right now, she's too afraid to go out there."

"I'm scared to go on the woodchips," Juliet told KTVB. 

The playground has woodchips instead of a hard surface, and Juliet can't move her wheelchair on those. Her chair gets stuck. 

"It's just too hard," Juliet said. 

Katie said she can't imagine Juliet spending the next several years in elementary school not being able to play on the playground and structures with the other kids. She says there are no immediate plans to renovate the playgrounds at Seven Oaks Elementary. 

"That breaks my heart," said Katie. "I just want her to play with her friends and that's a long time to sit on the sidelines and not participate, so I started with a Go Fund Me and reached out to my own friends and family for donations! We raised about $6900 dollars. Then, the PTA, I didn't even have to ask them to help. They saw what I was doing and they jumped in to help and they organized the color run to raise more money."

The whole Seven Oaks school community came together to take part in the Color Run fundraiser!

"They raised about $47,000 dollars," said Katie in awe. "I was just blown away, I have been overwhelmed by how supportive the PTA and all the school families have been!" 

There are three outdated playgrounds at Seven Oaks. Katie said the cost to make just one playground ADA accessible will be about $200,000. There is more fundraising to be done. That's where PTA member Rollin Hansen comes into this story. He said he knew he had to be a part of this playground project, especially after meeting Juliet and her mom. 

"The school, the teachers, the faculty, everyone here at Seven Oaks is amazing," said Hansen. "Our kids love it here, and when I found out that she was raising money for this, it warmed my heart and broke it at the same time."

Hansen's company, 208 Properties, hosts a golf tournament every year for charity, and this year, he decided the playground fund will be the beneficiary. The tournament will be on August 5th at Eagle Hills Golf Course. 

 "This is something we are really passionate about, and we want to raise as much money as we possibly can," said Hansen. "Come on out and meet some of the kids that will be there, and the family members in the community." 

People can golf, or simply donate to the cause online. Hansen said he can not wait to see the day that this accessible playground becomes a reality.

"It will feel complete, I mean all the kids should be able to participate on the playground," Hansen said. 

When we told Juliet about the push to build her a place where she can play, she was thrilled. 

"What? That's awesome," Juliet said with glee.  

Her mom Katie wants to thank all of the people who have donated so far.

"It means everything to me, seeing this playground remodeled would be a dream come true," Katie said.  

To register for the golf tournament on August 5th, or to simply donate to the cause, click HERE.

We reached out to the West Ada School District about this effort, and the the district said "The West Ada School District supports the local effort to build an inclusive playground at Seven Oaks Elementary. We are incredibly impressed and appreciative of the fundraising support, especially from parents, and are determining how we can best support the Seven Oaks Elementary students. This effort demonstrates the very best of the West Ada community."

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