When our Program Director, Leah Barron, and I met at a music festival in 2017 we immediately felt a strong connection. After just a few conversations, we believed that our friendship and business venture was destined. Over the next several years we learned together about all aspects of business management and event planning, co-producing our first Inclusion Festival in 2018. Calling one another “friends” didn’t quite fit and “business partners” didn’t feel right either. So, we settled on “soul purpose partners” to best describe the many ways we support one another’s personal and professional passions, dreams, and overall well-being in a very special and unique manner.
Similarly, during a recent conversation with our non-profit advisor, Don Crocker, he explained that he feels called to donate his time to supporting our development and success because it feels like this is his “soul work.” Don is a nationally recognized leader in the philanthropic and non-profit sectors with broad experience as a CEO and advisor. He is also a professor at NYU’s Heyman Center for Philanthropy & Fundraising, loves music and the arts, and has been involved with creating accessible recreation opportunities for individuals with limited access for many years. He said, “It emerged in me through my experiences of seeing members of my family and friends excluded due to lack of access and ability.”
While holding his first Executive Director position at Queens REACH/Camp Smile, Don worked with the CUNY Center on Human Environments and the NYC Parks Department to create and test the first fully inclusive playground in the country. The “Playground for All Children” opened in 1984 in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens. It included an interpretive trail of trees and flowers marked with braille plaques, a racetrack and a suspended bridge to accommodate wheelchairs, ramped play equipment, and accessible swings and seesaws that children operated themselves by pulling on chains. The “Playground For All Children” was notable in that it engaged both disabled and able–bodied children, and served as a prototype for similar facilities elsewhere. Later in his career at the Midwood Development Corporation, Don was instrumental in opening after school recreation programs to kids with disabilities.
This conversation was a reminder that “soul work,” or working in a way that feels truly aligned with the essence of who you are, is essential and powerful. By trusting my intuition, I have been able to turn my passions into my work, and so many incredible and supportive people, like Don and Leah, have joined me in my journey at just the right time. While not everyone can work in this aligned way all of the time, I do believe that we can all find higher levels of joy and satisfaction if we tap into our passions and express them in some way. It may be paid work, community service, a hobby, or a project.
The “Playground for All Children” in Queens, NY