It Never Hurts to Ask: Girl Scout's Speech Leads to $1.8 Million in Funding For Inclusive Playground

Like many other girl scouts, Esther Lucas has a lot of experience selling things to adults. She has ample evidence in the form of Girl Scout badges.

"These are for cookie sales," Esther said pulling out just two from a bag filled with dozens of badges.

Even with such an extensive track record, though, this Sunnyvale 18-year-old and Homestead High School graduate has even surprised herself with a sale she recently closed.

"I was like, 'That's a lot of money. Did I really do that?" Ester said.

The story all began when Esther was looking for a project to earn her Gold Award, the crowning achievement of a career in Girl Scouts.

"I want to do something where I can help people who don't have the same things as other people," Esther said.

The people Esther settled on helping were children living with disabilities. Esther had noticed that she never saw them playing at her local playgrounds, even ones supposedly accessible to those with disabilities.

Esther's research on the topic led her to Palo Alto's Magical Bridge Playground, a fully inclusive, wildly successful playspace.

Esther was convinced it was just what her city needed. All she had to do was convince city leaders of it.

So, one Tuesday evening last September, Esther put her name down to speak in front of the Sunnyvale City Council.

"Good evening Mr. Mayor and Honorable Council Members," Esther began. She then proceeded to use her two minutes of allotted time to make her case for transforming one of Sunnyvale's playgrounds into one that would be accessible to all its residents, regardless of disability.

"They said they liked my idea but they just can't go for it and they would have to think about," Esther said.

True to their word, the Council Members not only thought about it but proceeded to put Esther's idea into action. This past June they voted to allocate $1.8 to begin renovating the playground in Fair Oaks Park and turning it into Magical Bridge Sunnyvale.

"Esther was the spark," Jill Asher, co-Founder of the Magical Bridge Foundation said. "She's a remarkable young woman."

It is all, Esther admits, so much more than she had ever hoped for when she walked up to the microphone last September.

So much sweeter, we should add, than any box of cookies.

"It's been really cool and it's also been kind of eye opening what one small thing can do."

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