Salinas Park for People with Special Needs Gets Some Color

By Nicholas St. Fleur | Herald Staff Writer
Tatum Bakker, 3, works on a mural with Salinas artist Jose Ortiz. (DAVID ROYAL/The Herald)

Tatum Bakker, 3, dipped her brush in yellow paint, rolled her wheelchair forward a few inches, and added a splash of color to an emerging mural on the playground that bears her name in Salinas.

Under the supervision of her parents, Shawn and Amanda Bakker, Tatum, who has spina bifida and cannot walk, helped Salinas artist Jose Ortiz and a crew of volunteers put the finishing touches on a mural at Tatum’s Garden on Monday. The playground is an all-inclusive park in Salinas’ Sherwood Park for children and adults with special needs.

The display depicts four children, one in a wheelchair, playing together with their hands high in the sky, grabbing the sun and moon. Its vibrant mix of blues, greens, oranges and reds is meant to offer a warm welcome to children seeking excitement at the only park in a 250-mile radius designed for children of all physical abilities.

Ortiz, who was inspired by the community’s effort to construct the park, volunteered to design the mural and spread “Tatum’s touch.” He wanted to show children being kids and connecting with the elements of wind, water, earth and fire.

“This mural is to celebrate the children’s spirit and how the body doesn’t hold them down because their spirit is still free,” said Ortiz. “Even though they might be in a wheelchair, the mural shows that they can stand up and fly.”

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