CONCORD -- During a particularly difficult week last month, Liz Lamach was given a reason to smile. As she mourned the three-year anniversary of the death of her 11-year-old son Matteo, she learned his remarkable story was reaching new heights.
Matteo, who was blind and suffered from cerebral palsy, was the inspiration for a "Matteo's Dream," a city playground designed for disabled children.
Now, the memory of Matteo -- who died on March 16, 2010 -- will live on at the 125th Annual Tournament of Roses Parade on Jan. 1 in Pasadena. Lions Clubs International informed Lamach last month it is modeling its parade float after the north Concord playground.
The city of Concord announced the news Monday.
"It's been such a dark journey since his passing," said Lamach. "It was a little ray of light. ... It wasn't so dark anymore. He is living on through this project and touching millions of people. And it's like giving it another life ... not him, but the playground."
Built by an all-volunteer crew with major financial support from the Lions Club, the playground opened at Hillcrest Park on Olivera Road in 2007 as the city's -- and perhaps the region's -- first playground designed with children who cannot walk, see or hear in mind.
It features rubberized flooring to accommodate wheelchairs; metal slides that, unlike plastic slides, do not disrupt hearing devices; and large xlophone-style instruments that allow the children to hear and feel the vibrations of music. The playground has inspired others as far as Australia and as close by as Walnut Creek, where one is currently proposed.
Bill Ridle of the Lions Club said the spirit of the playground fit this year's parade theme of "Follow Your Dreams." Ridle and other Lions Club members will travel to Southern California in December to construct the float, which will feature the playground's castles.
Lamach and her partner, Rene Henderson, plan to be there too.
"There is no word to explain what an honor this is," said Lamach. "It's going to tell the story of how we did it."
David DeBolt covers Concord and Clayton. Contact him at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.