October 06, 2008 12:00 PM

Amy Jaffe Barzach, 47

West Hartford, Conn.

Catherine Curry-Williams, 49

Los Angeles, Calif.

Amy Jaffe Barzach suffered heart-wrenching anguish when her infant Jonathan died of a neuro-muscular disease in 1995. Resolved to honor him, she found inspiration in a wheelchair-bound girl at a local park who sadly watched other kids play. “I thought, ‘Shouldn’t playgrounds be for everyone?'” recalls Barzach.

So she began leveling the playing field. Through bake sales and fund-raisers, she raised $500,000 to build a playground with wheelchair-accessible treehouses and waist-high sand tables. With corporate sponsorship she launched the nonprofit Boundless Playgrounds, inspiring Catherine Curry-Williams, who lost her baby to the same disease, to create Shane’s Inspiration in ’98 in his memory. Since then, both moms have helped build 152 playgrounds. “Our kids are in heaven,” says Curry-Williams, “but this is bigger than them.” Just ask Cole Massie, an 11-year-old with cerebral palsy in L.A. “Other playgrounds are hard for wheelchairs,” he says. “At Shane’s I can get to all areas. It’s a special place.”

Know a hero? Send suggestions to HEROESAMONGUS@PEOPLEMAG.COM

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