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Mothers strive to put the 'access in accessibility'

Date: 6/9/2009

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD -- Karen Moriarty and Holly Santos are mothers striving to put "the access in accessibility" with the first ever Wheel-Walk at Stanley Park.

These women have watched their children struggle with their physical limitations for over a decade to access facilities that many able-bodied people may take for granted. With the help of those at Stanley Park, Moriarty and Santos are working to make more venues available to the disabled and able-bodied alike.

"We have a vision of making [the 300-acre park] a place for everybody [to enjoy] regardless of physical disability," Robert McKean, managing director of Stanley Park, said, adding that the handicapped accessible playground and trail beginning at the Asian Garden have been the first steps toward realizing that vision.

Moriarty noted that participants in the Wheel-Walk on June 20 will traverse the three-quarter-mile trail beginning at the Asian Garden to raise funds and awareness for the cause.

Moriarty and Santos said Stanley Park has become a marvelous resource for their families because their children with special needs can play side-by-side with their able-bodied siblings.

Moriarty, a mother of two, has a 15-year-old daughter who has cerebral hypoplasia -- an underdevelopment of the cerebellum, which causes decreased motor skills -- and uses a walker to maintain mobility. Santos, also a mother of two, has a 12-year-old son with autism who gets around by stroller.

"They [those with physical limitations] need to have places to enjoy like everybody else," Santos said. "There's really very few [recreational facilities] for people on wheels to access."

The Wheel-Walk will take place rain or shine at Stanley Park on June 20 from 10 a.m. to noon. Registration will begin at 9 a.m.

Sponsorship opportunities from $100 to $5,000 are also available.

To volunteer, send donations or obtain more information about the Wheel-Walk, call Stanley Park at 572-2900 or visit