It was a moment that might seem so routine to so many families, but for former Seahawks tackle Sean Locklear, his wife Tiffany and their three sons, the act of just having the entire family enjoying a day on a playground together was a big deal.
As a ceremony marking the completion of an expansion project at Bellevue Downtown Park wound down Wednesday afternoon, Sean and Tiffany Locklear, as well as their sons Zane, 4, Paxton, 2, and Cyrus, 4 months, all sat together on the park's new Sway Fun Accessible Glider, a feature at the park's new Inspiration Playground that can accommodate Zane's wheelchair while allowing his family to join in on the fun.
Zane suffered a severe anoxic brain injury in January of 2015, the result of a non-fatal drowning accident, and while he has exceeded early expectations for his recovery, things as routine as a day at the park can be a challenge, which is what makes the new Inspiration Playground, which includes interactive features that engage the senses, create inclusiveness and accommodate children of all abilities and their caregivers, such a special place for families like the Locklears. The playground was paid for with a community-wide fundraising campaign led by the Rotary Club of Bellevue, and among the many people and organizations that stepped up to help fund the park was the Seattle Seahawks, who provided a $20,000 grant for the Sway Fun Glider that had Zane smiling Tuesday afternoon.
"It's awesome," said Locklear, who spent seven of his nine NFL seasons in Seattle. "Going through this process, there's all these things you think about that you need, then when you're going to parks—when Zane was smaller, it was easy because I could carry him and sit in swings and all that, so you didn't really think about it—then as he gets bigger and older, you want to be able to go to the park, but you don't want to leave him out. You want him to be able to have fun too."
Reading a statement from Lt. Governor Cyrus Habib, a spokesperson from the Lt. Governor's office explained what makes the Inspiration Playground a special place: "The Inspiration Playground is what inclusivity looks like. In part, that is because the playground design does not stop at 'accessible.' There are plenty of playgrounds throughout our state that meet accessibility requirements, and are fully compliant with ADA regulations. But 'accessible to all' does not mean 'engaging to all' or 'fun for all.' The Inspiration Playground imagines the world from the point of view of children with diverse interests and abilities, and different ways of connecting with the world—and from that point of view, offers opportunities for exploration, play, and fun."
Locklear said Zane is "doing a lot better" these days than was expected following the accident two years ago.
"Honestly, it was no hope, he was under water for a significant amount of time. He was in a coma for two weeks. The only thing that really saved him, they told us, was that it was cold water, it kind of preserved the brain," Locklear said. "He has progressed a lot. They said he would be a vegetable; he's not. He moves his arms, he holds his head, he sits, he makes noises and stuff like that, so he has come a long way from what the diagnosis was. He knows mom and dad, he smiles, and that was the biggest thing, because before his accident—every parent will say it—but he was a happy kid. It was frustrating to see your son going through this coming from being so happy, but as he has progressed, it took about six months, seven months, and we got that first smile out of him. That in itself let us know that he's progressing."
Zane was smiling again Tuesday surrounded by family, a moment Locklear hopes this park can help provide for his and other area families.
"You don't know what that did to me," Locklear said of hearing about plans for the Inspiration Playground, which is close to the family's Bellevue home. "I'm getting chills thinking about it right now. It's hard when you go somewhere where you know Zane's not going to be able to do anything. Here he can get outside and have a good time."
Earlier in the afternoon, Blue Thunder and the Sea Gals helped kick off a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark an expansion of the park, which in addition to the Inspiration Playground also included the completion of the circular path around the park.