After their nine-month-old son Jonathan died from spinal muscular atrophy, Amy Jaffe Barzach and her husband Peter channeled their grief into Jonathan’s Dream – one of the first universally accessible playgrounds in the country, created by more than 1,000 volunteers, opening at the Mandell JCC in West Hartford, Conn. in 1996. Had he survived, Jonathan would have needed a wheelchair, and the creation of a playground for children both with and without disabilities became a meaningful way for the Barzach family to honor his memory. Time magazine published an article about Jonathan’s Dream later that year, sparking interest across the U.S. from people wanting to create similar playgrounds for kids in their communities. Barzach answered by creating Boundless Playgrounds.
With Barzach at the helm, Boundless Playgrounds raised awareness of the need for inclusive playgrounds in every state, helped communities develop 135 inclusive playgrounds in 25 states, successfully implemented three state initiatives, and raised millions of dollars for the cause, including $10,000,000 in challenge grants that directly helped more than 50 communities develop their own inclusive playgrounds. Cause marketing partnerships were created with national corporations Hasbro and CVS/Caremark.
In 2007, after more than a decade as Boundless Playgrounds’ founding executive director, Barzach encouraged her board of directors to seek out the organization’s first non-founder chief executive. When she turned over leadership the following year, her title was changed to Founder & Director Emeritus. Then she moved on to start – in response to requests from all over the country – Powerful Inspiration™, helping people discover their own power to make positive change in the world. She is now a full-time Certified Dream Coach, Master Life Design Facilitator, and Purpose Coach – speaking, leading workshops, and coaching one-on-one to help individuals and organizations find their passion and use their unique strengths to achieve success and make a lasting difference.
“As I traveled throughout the country, sharing my dreams for Boundless Playgrounds with people and hearing theirs, I learned that there was an enormous opportunity to help people bring about - in their own way and for what matters to them - the kind of impact we were able to achieve with the creation of Boundless Playgrounds,” said Barzach. “People from all walks of life are hungry to know how they can use their personal energy and passion to positively impact their communities and society as a whole.”
Barzach continues to promote inclusion as the chair of the Inclusive Fitness Coalition’s Inclusive Play National Workgroup (IFC), established by the National Center for Physical Activity and Disability and the American College of Sports Medicine. Her dedication to inclusion and children with disabilities has been recognized in her home state of Connecticut and nationwide: Barzach’s first national award was the National Recreation & Park Association’s ROSE Award in 1998, for "outstanding efforts in advancing parks and recreation." This was followed by the "Parenting Leaders" Award from Parenting magazine as one of eight outstanding Americans who have made a difference in children's lives; and a Local Hero Award from Bank of America. Woman’s Day and Glamour magazines also celebrated Barzach for her dedication and accomplishments. Barzach was also elected as a North American Fellow by Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, a global organization that identifies and invests in social entrepreneurs.; In 2008, Barzach received the Martha Stewart Dreamers Into Doers Award.
Barzach’s personal journey is chronicled in the book Accidental Courage, Boundless Dreams. She lives in West Hartford, Conn., with her husband, Peter, and three of their children, Daniel, Alyssa and Michael. Jonathan, her second son, would have been 17 this coming spring.