The Graceful Place: a home for all

Create a safe space where all people feel welcome, can learn, grow and have fun.

Photo of Grace Messer

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  • Environment

Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?

  • No

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602-512-5978 5438 E. Emile Zola Ave Scottsdale, AZ 85254

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Date You Started Your Project Started

June 2018?

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Idea (hoping to get started in the future)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

The main issue is that most playgrounds aren't inclusive to all kids. Kids with special needs whether that is a wheelchair, blindness, autism or other limitation are often left out. This, in turn, can lead to bullying and lower self-esteem as the child may feel like an outsider. Also, as parents of some special needs children may not always be able to take their children out for fear of outbursts, the family often is stuck at home.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

What I would like to do is have an inclusive play ground that is more than just a park. I want it to be more along the lines of a community center where people of all ages and abilities can come and get together. Imagine an area where there are vertical gardens, some set at lower heights so that someone in a wheelchair would be able to access it with ease. It would be a perfect place to learn about health and taking care of nature, as well as anything else. In a fenced in area there would be lots of games; large connect four, maybe bean bag toss, a chalk board wall... lots of activities that would be fun for people of various ages and various skill levels. This area would be outdoors (maybe under an awning) so the kids could be noisy without worrying about disturbing anyone. The inside area, would have some rooms that can be used for learning and a big common space to play together. It would be a nice place to learn to be more accepting and tolerant of each other. I really hope that it could help children retain their social skills as they grow, rather than losing them to technology use. I also hope that it would cut down the amount of bullying since it would be rather diverse.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

I've always liked to help people. One of the catalysts for this specific project is probably helping with the "Special Stars". They are people of all ages at my church that have special needs. Once or twice a year the church would put on a big event for them and their families to come and have a fun night out together. I had never realized how rarely I saw people out and about with special needs. When was the last time you saw someone in a restaurant with Downs? Think about it, it's probably been a while. The family may not go out as much due to the fear of ridicule or the child's outbursts. I want everyone to be able to go out and be happy. I also shaved my head once for a child cancer fundraiser, the next time I was at one of my Ballsfest (a group I help with) events, the kids were so excited to see someone else that had hair like them, rather than people staring at their bald heads.

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

Here are some of my favorite quotes: “Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don't.” ― Bill Nye "When I say it's you I like, I'm talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.” ― Fred Rogers

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

As I walk in, family in tow, to the place we had heard was for everyone, my son bolts to the back door. Ronny, who is 7 and has Down syndrome saw the sandbox and the giant chalkboard wall through the door. By this point we'd already lost Grandma to a game of hand and foot, and my husband was just as eager to head outside as he had seen someone looking for an opponent for their giant game of battleship. Soon it was just me. Ronny was already making friends as he drew his colorful creations on the chalk wall. I decided to take a stroll through the garden, stopping to sit at a bench and watch some butterflies flutter past. I heard a loud groan from the other side of the bushes and then quietly, "you sank my battleship...". I smiled to myself as I went to peek in on Grandma. She was giggling and joking with the other players. This is just what we needed, a happy place!

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

This is a safe place to learn and teach one another. Imagine a village. Everyone has their own set of skills, their own area of expertise. Older people are able to teach and mentor the younger people. For example, people who are experts at cooking with produce can help those who grew up in the food desert and are ready for a change. Take that mentality, add inclusivity of abilities, age, gender, sexual orientation, race etc. plus some sustainable practices. Finally, since it's inclusive, we'd have a special playground as well as the games and fun outside picnic area mentioned earlier.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

In the next two years I hope to have three regularly scheduled play groups and one regularly scheduled health class with varying topics. I will keep a sign in book to see how many people are coming as well as have a comment box in order to receive feedback. There will be an area where nice comments will be hung on the wall in order to encourage and support others, kind of like a "thank you, keep up the good work" wall. In the future, if our gardens do well, we would have a big cook out to celebrate and those who have been learning how to cook with the produce would have the opportunity to help cook for everyone.

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

My idea was always to have a huge version of this on my own land. I would like to do what is outlined above but then have a little shop as well as huge gardens that would protect the environment. I would also like to have an area to host events and a barn yard with lots of animals. These animals would be saved from horrible conditions and would have lots of room to run around but could come and get pet by visitors if they desired. With the different events, I would like them to be both charity sort of events as well as possibly weddings or other types of paid parties. I think it would be nice to be able to donate a portion of whatever profits to a different charity each month.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Project Plan & Strategy

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French) (6)

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • T-Mobile page or contact


Join the conversation:

Photo of Aster M

Hi Grace! We really liked the wordplay in your project name. Very creative! You had a lot of great ideas. We especially liked the “village” concept you introduced. After reading through your proposal, we think your project would benefit from narrowing your focus because the different elements you incorporated could be more cohesive.

Photo of Grace Messer

Hi Aster, thank you so much for your feedback.
The way I'd been working on this idea is actually quite a bit bigger and I feel that in that form it is a bit easier to understand how it all flows together. However, it would have been much to difficult to explain in the limited writing space so I made this pilot plan(:
As I want it to be interesting and engaging for all ages, skill levels and abilities, I feel as though lots of elements are necessary for the whole idea to come together.
I made a virtual model, although I wasn't able to get it on here, but through it you are able to see how various elements play off each other.
I will keep cohesion in mind moving forward, thanks so much!

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