Madison Claire Foundation

18 Jul

Summertime is prime playground time!  Time to swing, slide, run, jump, and play tag; but playgrounds are not made for all kids.  Today’s organization is on a mission to change that.

On May 16, 2002, Madison Claire Millington was born.  She appeared to be a healthy baby, but by her six-month checkup, her parents knew her development wasn’t progressing the same as her two older siblings.  Madison was not lifting her head, rolling, bearing weight on her legs or sitting unaided.  The doctor referred her to a neurologist and a diagnosis of Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) followed.  According to the SMA Foundation, “SMA is a genetic neuromuscular disease characterized by muscle atrophy and weakness. The disease generally manifests early in life and is the leading genetic cause of death in infants and toddlers”.    Madison lived until just three months past her second birthday.  She passed away on August 17, 2004. 


After Madison passed, her mother Dana knew she wanted to start a foundation that would help families with disabled children in some way.  The birth of that idea came after a day of golfing for her husband Dave.  A group of men passed a hat around the table and collected a couple thousand dollars.  They told him it was for the family to use where they needed it.  They put it in savings until they were ready to make that decision.  They started the foundation by donating overnight backpacks to parents in the Pediatric ICU at St. Paul Children’s Hospital.  The backpacks contained everything needed for an overnight stay.  Over four and a half years, they donated 320 backpacks annually. 

Then, one morning Dana saw a news segment on “inclusive playgrounds.”  As she watched a family share a story similar to hers, she remembered taking her children (including Madison) to the playground.  Dana had to decide between letting her older children (then only ages 5 and 3) play independently in the playground or to leave Madison alone in her wheelchair at the edge of the playground.  Playgrounds are a childhood experience that no child should go without, and while all playgrounds can claim they are accessible, they are not inclusive. 

The Madison Claire Foundation is currently raising funds to build an inclusive playground named “Madison’s Place” in Woodbury, Minnesota.  They hold an annual fundraiser and accept donations through their website.  The playground will be 15,000 square feet and is being designed with help from the Rehabilitation Services team at the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital. 

A rendering of the Madison’s Place playground

How can you help?

  • You can make a donation directly on the organization’s website.
  • You can also volunteer to help with their annual fundraising event – the next one is scheduled for October 20, 2012.  Watch for updates on their website.
  • You can also contact them directly at to inquire about group fundraisers or other volunteer opportunities.
  • You can also spread the word about the need for inclusive playgrounds.  If you don’t live near Woodbury, you can search to help you locate inclusive playgrounds near you in the United States or Canada. 

You can learn more about the Madison Claire Foundation at their website, and sign up to receive their newsletter.  You can also connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.


Posted by on July 18, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization


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