SAN MARCOS — Sophia Jones loved playing outside. She loved the fresh air, the bright sun and all the surroundings that came with being outdoors — as many children do.
However, because Sophie, as she was lovingly nicknamed, had cerebral palsy, she was unable to play on much of the equipment typically seen at playgrounds around North County. Sophia died in her San Marcos home in October 2019 as a result of a brain injury from a near-drowning accident.
Months after the devastating loss of Sophia, the Jones family hopes to honor their late daughter’s memory by building an All Abilities Park that will give every child the equal opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. Since launching their GoFundMe campaign in October, the family has raised more than $45,000 from hundreds of donors around the world to help reach that dream.
“We are overwhelmed by the support from our friends and community,” said Sophia’s father, Tyler Jones, who has lived in San Marcos since 2015. “We all miss Sophie so much. She had a beautiful personality and spirit that all who came in contact with her felt. As people have donated it has been a confirmation of the love that people felt for Sophie.”
Jones said they discovered an All Abilities Park last summer after vacationing in Utah. During that trip to the park, Sophia enjoyed all playground equipment, including a merry-go-round, teeter-totter and zipline.
The family opted to launch the fundraising campaign, named Sophie’s Gift, after receiving food and flowers following Sophia’s death.
“We started to receive so many kind gifts of flowers and food from our friends after Sophie passed,” Jones said. “Everyone asked as to what we needed. While we really loved the flowers and food, we really didn’t need any of it. We really wanted something special to remember Sophie by. So instead of spending money on flowers that will wither away we came up with the idea to purchase this special playground equipment.”
Since launching the fundraising campaign, the family has received gifts from family, friends and members of the public who never had the opportunity to meet Sophia. Educators who work with special needs children have also donated to the cause.
“One of the most touching donations was from an elementary child who saved his allowance and went to all his friends and collected over $50 in small change,” Jones said.
Jones said the family is currently working with an engineer and designer to develop their plans before taking it to the Carlsbad and San Marcos city councils. They hope to build the playground within an existing park.
More importantly, they hope the playground will bring joy to all children.
“I personally believe the playground will serve children in so many communities and will bring together families from every walk of life,” said Emily Moore, Sophia’s stepmother. “Most importantly, it will give children of all abilities a chance to play and have fun. Currently, most disabled kids sit on the sidelines watching other kids play.”
Moore said the primary goal of the playground is to “bring joy and happiness to the kids.”
“When we include everyone, life is more fun,” Moore said.
As they work to develop the playground, Jones, a father of four children, said he is still living with the pain of losing his beloved Sophia.
“Losing a child is the most painful thing I have ever experienced,” Jones said. “I feel the pain of loss every day. I now don’t try to avoid the pain but recognize it as love and use the time lost in thought thinking about my love for Sophie. It is hard not to be negative, but (the fundraising campaign) has really worked to lift my spirit.”
For more information about Sophie’s Gift, go to https://www.gofundme.com/f/sophie039s-gift
Hoa Quach has 15 years of experience in journalism, garnering multiple awards ranging from investigative reporting to feature writing. She’s been named a “Woman Who Means Business” by the San Diego Business Journal, featured in BuzzFeed during International Women’s Day and recognized by the California Legislature for her work. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.