By Bill Thomas

The California Parks and Recreation Society recently honored our Courtney’s Sandcastle Universal Playground with an “outstanding” award for its sensory garden design at its recent Long Beach annual convention. Previously, the Sandcastle had been commended by the California Association of Parks & Recreation Commissioners and Board Members for the playground design. The attractive trophies can be seen at the Vista Hermosa swimming complex. The Sandcastle, a part of the Vista Hermosa Sports Park, was the brainchild of Courtney Smith, who, at four years old and confined to a wheelchair, asked her mother, Christina, why San Clemente didn’t have a special place where both able and special need children could play together. Courtney, now 18, an honors graduate of San Clemente High School and an engineering major at the University of Washington, Is very proud of the thriving result of what so many members and organizations of both the community and the City have created in her name.

At this juncture, beyond its young, local user population, the playground is being introduced to various Orange County organizations working with autistic, blind, deaf, and mentally or physically-limited children to develop various new activities as reading, drama, puppetry, painting and recreational and sporting opportunities for their clientele. Courtney’s Charitable Foundation also seeks local volunteers interested in working with special need children, and assisting with fundraising and program development. Interested individuals can obtain contact information via the organization’s website – or by calling (949) 940-9246.