If you’ve ever taken a trip to Brendan’s Playground in O’Fallon, Missouri, you may not have noticed the significance of the layout and equipment. This playground was built and tailored for children with disabilities, from design and materials down to the finishing details. Everyone deserves the opportunity to play safely, and Brendan’s Playground is setting the standard for inclusivity. With ADA approved swings, wheelchair accessible ramps, sensory friendly activities, and a padded floor, the playground is second to none with its inclusive amenities.
The story behind Brendan’s Playground goes back to 2010, when Unlimited Play partnered with the city of O’Fallon to bring this all-inclusive playground to life. At the grand opening in 2011, Mayor Bill Hennessy recognized a very special individual, Brendan Schmitt, for whom the playground was named after.
Brendan was born with Rothmund-Thomson Syndrome (RTS), a rare genetic disorder that can affect many parts of the body. Those diagnosed with RTS have an increased risk of cancer, especially bone cancer (osteosarcoma). Commonly, signs of RTS typically begin as a rash that starts on the cheeks and later spreads to other parts of the body. This rash gradually becomes chronic and persists for life.
While most of his peers were planning for prom, graduation and college life, Brendan was diagnosed with osteosarcoma at the age of 18 and made the difficult and life-altering decision to amputate his right arm. Prior to his surgery at Cardinal Glennon, Brendan and his parents, Michelle and Mike, were introduced to P&O Care’s clinical director Jon Wilson, CPO/LPO, who talked through Brendan’s post-operation goals and matched him with a right-hand myoelectric arm. After being cleared for a fitting post-surgery, Brendan came to P&O Care to begin his limb loss journey. He has since received his first prosthetic from Jon and his prosthetist team and looks forward to using it once he completes chemotherapy.
“Jon Wilson is phenomenal,” said Brendan’s mother, Michelle. “He’s there from day one and let us know what the options were and talked through the possible obstacles and potential outcomes. Brendan is a bit like me whereas we see the big picture of what’s going on and we make a plan. We stick to it.”
Michelle and her husband, Mike, see Brendan as someone who just wants to help others overcome their challenges.
It is no wonder why Brendan has a special place in the heart of his O’Fallon community; he has a personality that is rarer than his disease. An avid video gamer, advocate for children and others with disabilities, and a champion of creating smiles, he’s got his work cut out for him. His love for video games, like Minecraft, Battlefield, and Grand Theft Auto, influenced his decision on which prosthesis would best suit his goals and daily life. In fact, Brendan picked up his gaming controller his first day back after his surgery.
When he is not working on beating his high score, Brendan spends time watching videos on YouTube and learning about new technological advancements and electronics. During the process of selecting his prosthesis, Brendan spent hours watching videos of people using their devices and analyzing what he could and could not do with each model.
After completing his chemotherapy, Brendan plans to start college where he hopes to study accounting or science. During high school he completed three AP courses that cultivated a deep connection with mathematics and accounting principles. What is more important to Brendan is that he feels his personal experience with using a prosthesis and his strong desire to learn more will help design or create better technology for a new device in the future.