“Friendship is based on the oldest and most intrinsic human awareness that there is more to life than just ourselves.”

– Christopher Hansard

As a young girl riding the bus to school, Sarah Carlson looked for the underdog so she could sit beside them.

“My passion even back then was to share the big love I had inside of me,” she explains.

Carlson is a hard-working woman, wife, mother, and a Director of ICF Services with ABLE, Inc. Many in the community know Carlson as “Beckett’s mom” or “the Friendship Park lady.” While all of this is true, they are not the aspects of herself she leaves as her legacy.

Carlson loves her work and admits it’s a big part of my life, finds value in the people and relationships, but it isn’t the whole picture of her identity. Instead, she is committed to understanding herself, owning her intrinsic value, and serving the community from a place of open and authentic love.

“People on the fringes, those with disabilities, those who are stuck on their journey – all can benefit from feeling first loved, then safe, and then honored,” she says. “When I understand myself, I can better help others to see the dignity in just being them.”

Carlson’s actions, professionally and personally, are driven by the desire to live curious and find creative solutions. During the 7 years Friendship Park has been in the works, curiosity has been her defense against discouragement.

“It’s been similar to working with people who have disabilities,” she notes, “When an obstacle comes up, we don’t say, ‘Oh well, too bad that can’t happen.’ We say, ‘Let’s find another way to do this!’”

Set to open to the public in June, Carlson believes the impact of the inclusive space will be more than meets the eye. The impact will reach the heart. Children, she recalls, would draw her son as standing up with the rest of the children in the picture, up until they reached a certain age.

“At some point, they recognized the difference and then drew Beckett with wheels,” she notes. “Sometimes differences lead to judgment, which leads to separateness. I live curiously, look for sameness, and try to see myself in the person in front of me. When we find common ground, there is the possibility for more: more friendship and more understanding.”

She states she routinely scans her surroundings and asks, “Who’s missing?” Identifying who is absent from the table, then looking for ways to invite that person, or people group, to break bread. Her legacy will include leaving Dickinson a more thoughtful, curious, and inclusive place because she’s led with authentic big love.

“The Friendship Park is for children with and without disabilities to play and be given the gift of connection, fun, and laughter.”

Kudos is a program of the local nonprofit organization Women Empowering Women. The program recognizes the good work women do. These are women who’ve lived quietly, joyfully, or creatively to influence our lives. They are an inspiration and deserve to be recognized for their efforts and impact. Women Empowering Women is dedicated to the collaboration of women to meet needs and help women become the best versions of themselves. To learn more, see wewnetwork.org.