Never Give Up  

By on Feb 27, 2024 in Giving

Each year, Yardi distributes philanthropic aid to organizations selected by its employees.

Meet the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation—Never Give Up, founded in 2009 in Santa Barabara, Calif. This organization works to fill the gap needed to create real change and build a more inclusive future for those with disabilities. After raising $6 million over the last seven years, Gwendolyn’s Playground will break ground in 2024—Santa Barbara’s first fully inclusive playground.

Using Universal Design and considering how society learns and grows, this sensory-rich environment removes today’s typical playground’s physical and social barriers. Here, everyone belongs and has opportunities to challenge themselves, play side-by-side and have fun together. These experiences foster life-long lessons of cooperation, empathy and kindness. The foundation will focus on raising the remaining dollars needed to build sports fields and park amenities to create such a park complex in Santa Barabara.

“We are thrilled by the broad community support and belief in our mission to create a more inclusive future,” said Victoria Strong, founder and executive director at Gwendolyn Strong Foundation. “The vision to build Gwendolyn’s Playground alongside sports fields and accessible pathways and gardens is essential for meeting the needs of all community members and will create a true synergy for community activity.”

Yardi’s generous donation helped fund the Little Inclusive Library, which fosters literacy and inclusion for all ages. It will also help to build a reading corner in the library into the top story of the Magical Tree play structure. While lounging on soft caterpillars and ladybugs, children can peruse a collection of children’s books celebrating diversity, friendship, kindness and disability. Children’s books are an excellent way to introduce normalizing differences and start conversations and education.  The foundation also works with several award-winning disabled authors on an author visitor series in this space.

“This project would not be possible without the generosity of businesses like Yardi who believe in the value of giving back to our communities to create a better future collectively. We are so grateful for Yardi’s support of Gwendolyn’s Playground and their shared belief that every child deserves to play,” shared Strong.

Gwendolyn Strong

Gwendolyn Strong was born in 2007, and at six months old, she was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). Being told the news that she would not live another six months for there was no cure, her parents immediately launched into advocacy and dedication to create real change, turning their devasting pain into purpose—Never Give Up.

The Gwendolyn Strong Foundation funded cutting-edge research around the globe while recruiting the next generation of research leaders and lobbying for increased Congressional support. Their work played a pivotal role in changing the disease forever. SMA now has three FDA-approved life-saving treatments.  Including a groundbreaking gene therapy ‘potential’ cure for newborns. In addition, the foundation helped pass federal legislation that created an easier path to clinical trials for all rare diseases, and SMA was added to newborn and carrier screening recommendations.

Gwendolyn thrived beyond expectation. Though medically fragile and profoundly disabled, she possessed an exuberance for life and a determination just to be one of the kids. She attended a typical elementary school, had many friends, danced hip-hop, ran half marathons, adored reading, loved adventures and travel, and inspired kindness wherever she went.

“We lived big when we could and cherished the simplest of gifts along the way,” expressed Strong.  

Gwendolyn died at age 7, but her legacy carries on fiercely, giving the foundation and countless others the courage NEVER to GIVE UP!

“When you include everyone in the community, it becomes a thriving gathering place, bringing people out of the shadows and making this world much kinder,” Strong shared.

Volunteer Opportunities

Once Gwendolyn’s Playground is built, there will be many volunteer opportunities, and the Gwendolyn Foundation would love to have Yardi participate in fun, inclusive programs. In the meantime, the foundation is still raising funding. Employees looking to help this effort can donate directly, start any fundraisers or shop its nonprofit apparel: Never Give Up.

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