No. 11 – Making a Special Place for Special Kids

I spent several years of my career at Siskin Children’s Institute, an organization focused on improving the lives of small children with developmental disabilities. I worked with a great team of people serving children with diagnoses ranging from autism to cerebral palsy and providing resources to their families, teachers and medical care providers. During those years, I had the privilege of getting to know Dr. Robin McWilliam, a world-renowned leader in early childhood special education. Knowing Robin and gleaning from his tremendous expertise not only helped me understand the positive lifelong effects of high quality early intervention services for young children, but it also made me a better parent to my own kids. The practices used to help children with special needs are also very effective on the behavior of normally developing youngsters. I can tell you the number of temper tantrums we experienced in our household dropped dramatically after I started working with Robin.

Having experienced the importance of early services for children with disabilities, I was very glad our family found a connection to the Pink Crocodile School, a small center on the outskirts of Prague educating children with very complex needs. As we walked through the facility and watched these therapists and educators in action, I saw many similarities to the efforts of Robin and my other former colleagues at Siskin. The children might speak a different language, but the care and attentiveness to their needs remained the same.

The Executive Director, Ulrike Scheidner, is a committed and passionate young woman who spends the majority of her time working to raise the funds necessary to keep the school open. While it does receive a small amount of funding from the Czech government, the Pink Crocodile would not survive without significant donations from corporations and individuals. Because she spends so much time fundraising, Ulrike has little time to address some of the other projects she would like to complete for the school, like the long-awaited raised garden and sand box.

Before shot of the garden box
Before shot of the sand box area

After our quick tour of the facility, we spent the afternoon building the raised garden and finishing the installation of  the playground sandbox. Our girls were a huge help as we cleared out mulch, flattened the area, set the bricks, cemented them into place, and filled the box with dirt. The planting of fall flowers and herbs was their favorite part of the day. The sandbox is also now ready for the school’s students, with a new liner, new sand, and many bucketfuls of mulch transferred from the garden box  area.
Start of the garden box at Pink Crocodile
Liv laying bricks
Tracey and Emily laying bricks
Adding dirt

It was a fun day spent outside in beautiful weather. As a reward for their hard work, the girls got to meet one of the most beloved members of the school – the pet rabbit. The Pink Crocodile School is changing the lives of its students and their families, and we were privileged to get to know this organization and its team.

The finished Garden Box with Ulrike
New sandbox
Ali with the rabbit at Pink Crocodile

About the Author

Mom, wife, friend and change agent traveling the world with my family to learn our place in it. After spending a career in organizational change management and community initiative implementation, I put my career on hold for our family's trip around the world. In April of 2014 we sold almost everything we own, put the rest in a storage container, and departed on this journey. While my husband continued his software development work to financially support our trip, I planned and documented our adventure, homeschooled our three daughters, and found volunteer work opportunities for us to do in the communities we visit. Now that we've returned to the U.S., I'm completing book about our family's adventure and our lessons learned.

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  1. The garden and sandbox should provide pleasure for the children for years. A little effort on the “front end” by your family yields long-term pleasure on the “back-end” for a countless number of children! Great choice of projects. Jim

  2. You’re too kind but in gratitude for your generous words and more generous labor at The Pink Crocodile School, where can we send donations to them (perhaps via you)?

  3. Dear Tracey, thank you and your family for the great support in helping finishing our garden. It looks perfect and the kids will play in the sand box for the first time today :-). It was fabulous having you here and also at our charity tennis tournament yesterday.

    Dear Robin, thanks for your kind offer to donate to our school. Our special school ( is supporting complex needs children who otherwise have only a very low chance of education in this country. With our charity we not only provide them education and therapy under one roof, but fight for their rights, fight against discrimination of them and finally for a better quality of life for them and their families. Due to the lack of state funding (very low support only), we are depended on donations to making our school work. So we are very grateful for any financial support.

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