Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Carnival Colossal Begins with Special Needs Fair

Friday, September 30th, 2016


Carnival Colossal Begins with Special Needs Fair – Newspaper Article

Award-Winning Playground Recognized

Monday, April 20th, 2015

CSCF Awards BanquetCourtney SandCastle Charitable Foundation Wins Volunteer Merit Award Congratulations to the Courtney SandCastle Charitable Foundation. The volunteers who worked so hard to bring to completion this successful, unique playground, received a well deserved Volunteer Merit Award at the California Parks & Recreation Society District 10 Awards Banquet, April 2015. This honor was given in recognition of outstanding contribution to the community. Congratulations and thank you to ALL the volunteers that contributed!

Sensory Garden Opening!

Saturday, March 21st, 2015

March 19, 2015 – San Clemente Times Article

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 4.13.50 PM

Click on Image to view article Sensory Garden Grand Opening

Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) Field Trip to Courtney’s SandCastle

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

OC Register June 17, 2014 by Fred Swegles

Courtney’s SandCastle gives special needs children a place to play


Pamela Passow, recreation manager for San Clemente, pushes Lucas Boucly, 4, of R.H. Dana Exceptional Needs Facility on a swing during a June 12 field trip to Courtney’s SandCastle, a universal-access playground at Vista Hermosa Sports Park in San Clemente.


Kira Roling of R.H. Dana Exceptional Needs Facility plays with a musical installment. Plans are under way to add a sensory garden.

CSC gives special needs children a place to play

Independence facilitator Becky Ticer helps Lindsey Edwards, 4, of Philip J. Reilly Elementary School make her way down a slide after she is taken off her wheelchair during a field trip at Courtney’s SandCastle in San Clemente on June 12.






Plans for sensory garden in San Clemente move forward

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

OC Register May 22, 2014 by Fred Swegles

City leaders hire contractor to build the $439,579 structure as the final touch to Courtney’s SandCastle.

Courtney Smith, 17, and Sharla Pitzen of Courtney’s SandCastle Charitable Foundation present San Clemente with $50,000 to help complete funding to add a sensory garden to the Courtney’s SandCastle universal-access playground.

Courtney Smith, 17, and Sharla Pitzen of Courtney’s SandCastle Charitable Foundation present San Clemente with $50,000 to help complete funding to add a sensory garden to the Courtney’s SandCastle universal-access playground.

San Clemente’s Courtney Smith was 4 years old in 2001 when adults in her life set out to find a way to build south Orange County’s first universal-access playground in her name.

On Tuesday night, the now-17-year-old, who has spinal muscular atrophy, was all smiles as San Clemente’s elected leaders hired a contractor to build a $439,579 sensory garden as the final touch to Courtney’s SandCastle, a playground that opened in 2012 at Vista Hermosa Sports Park.

“This has been a very long journey for all of us,” Smith said.

The City Council accepted a $50,000 donation from the Courtney’s SandCastle Charitable Foundation to help close a $113,000 funding gap. Taylor Morrison, new owner of San Clemente’s Marblehead Coastal residential development, donated $70,000 to close the gap completely, the city said.

Earlier, the foundation raised $340,000 toward the sensory garden, which will include a path, shade structure, tidal pool, interactive granite water sphere and music panels.

American Academy of Dermatology Awards $8,000 Shade Structure Grant

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

We are happy to announce that we received an $8,000.00 grant award for a strade structure to be installed in the Phase II Sensory Garden from the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).

American Academy of Dermatology Grant Recipients

Thank you to Dr. Maryam Moinfar for sponsoring the Courtney’s SandCastle Charitable Foundation.

Giving for Good

Saturday, October 12th, 2013

The Giving for Good event at the home of Michael Kaupp raises $9,000 toward a shade structure for the Courtney’s SandCastle playground.  Broadway’s Megan Starr-Levitt sang various Broadway pieces with Evan Sachs at the piano. It was a magical night!!!


click here to see Video of Courtney & Megan singing together

An Evening of Giving

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

The Courtney’s Sandcastle Charitable Foundation hosted an “Evening of Giving” event on Friday, December 28, 2012.  The event raised approximately $45,000 ($90,000 with the City Matching challenge).

Friends of San Clemente Beaches, Parks & Recreation Donation

Saturday, December 29th, 2012

The Courtney’s SandCastle Charitable Foundation receives a generous donation from the Friends of the San Clemente Beaches, Parks & Recreation for $20,000 ($13,000 additional to the $7,000 previously received) from the Carnival Colossal event proceeds.  

Expansion of universal-access playground gets San Clemente’s support

Thursday, October 18th, 2012
By FRED SWEGLES, Orange County Register

Courtney’s SandCastle, a universal-access playground in San Clemente that gives children with disabilities a chance to play beside children without disabilities, is a step closer to adding a sensory garden.

The City Council approved a conceptual plan Tuesday night to add interactive features designed to stimulate the senses – attractions such as a water sphere, musical play feature and tidal pool. The goal is to enhance the experience for developmentally challenged kids.

The council also voted to offer up to $110,000 in city funds on a dollar- for-dollar match as the Courtney’s SandCastle Charitable Foundation raises a final $110,000 needed to build Phase 2 of the playground, which opened Feb. 25 at Vista Hermosa Sports Park.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Mina Santoro, leader of the foundation and a volunteer who has worked more than 10 years to make the universal playground a reality in San Clemente. Santoro said the foundation hopes to raise the needed funds within a year or even six months. The foundation’s final $110,000 fund drive comes on top of $230,000 already raised privately toward the sensory garden.

Playground namesake Courtney Smith, 15, who has spinal muscular atrophy, was 4 when her family and friends set out to find a site and funding sources for a playground she could enjoy in her wheelchair with her friend Spencer Shelton-Jenks. She told the City Council that the sensory garden will benefit many more children.

The new features, estimated to cost $450,000, would go alongside existing Courtney’s SandCastle play equipment, including a climbable, ramp-accessible castle, a sailing ship, high-backed swings, musical sound boards, a sand scooper, and a sand and water table. The original playground cost $670,000, and the city added a specially designed restroom for $182,000.

A parade of speakers Tuesday appealed for city support of Phase 2. Nancy Brady, a San Clemente mom, told the council that her son Nick has grown to 6-foot-2 and is a freshman in high school, so Phase 1 of the playground isn’t for him. But because he has autism, “we are actively interested in Phase 2,” Brady said.

“Academically, he is doing great,” she said. “He’s taking algebra, English and conceptual physics. But his biggest complaint is how hard it is for him to organize his body. Since he does not have a lot of verbal language, he uses an iPad to communicate by arduously typing one letter at a time.”

His doctor has prescribed integrating sensory activity into his schedule to help him physically, and Nick already benefits from visiting fountains at Fashion Island in Newport Beach, his mother said.

“We make a day of it,” Brady said. “I spend my money at Fashion Island while he enjoys the fountains. I’d

like to do that in our own back yard if I could. Nick can sit quietly for a really long time and watch the water flow in and out, and for someone with a movement disorder, sitting, in itself, is a huge feat. The calmness that Nick experiences with running water is worth its weight in gold as a tool for organizing his body. And Nick needs these tools in order to participate in other aspects of his life.

“It would be such a blessing,” Brady added, “to have a water experience for Nick and kids with autism in our hometown – one that we could access on a daily basis if we needed to.”

Pam Patterson said adults with autism and other challenges also can benefit from the sensory garden. A letter read to the council described Alex, a 7-year-old with a sensory processing challenge.

Shauna Bogert said it is an honor to live in a city in the forefront of helping to integrate children with disabilities into the bigger community.

Sharon Heider, city director of beaches, parks and recreation, said that once funding is complete, it could take up to a year to solicit bids and build the sensory garden.