In the summer of 2019, when I came on at the centre as the programming and community engagement coordinator (my title was going to be longer but I managed to kybosh that), it quickly became apparent to me how important the folks that volunteer here really are. I mean, I knew that community centres of all kinds were largely supported by volunteers, but I didn’t really know what that meant; what the result of that is.
That summer the site of the inclusive playground was just a bulldozed, fenced-off pit overlooking the greenspace. The children in the area knew, maybe in their guts, that the pit was going to be something extraordinary and just for them. You’d see them walking around the fence, running their little fingers or a stick they’d found over it as you do when you’re little. The anticipation was certainly obvious, and we had to shoo some neighbourhood kids away, telling them to come back when the park was done.
“Well, when will it be ready?” they’d ask. “Soon,” we promised.
A handful of volunteers, called the Let’s All Play 2gether Committee, took on the monumental task of replacing the old playground with not only an updated and safer structure but inclusive equipment, so that parents and children of all abilities can enjoy it. They spent countless hours in meetings and canvassing community businesses for support to gather the resources and funds needed to make the playground a reality.
One of the volunteers and leaders on the project, Maureen O’Brien, recalls that during their fundraising phase a 4-year-old boy donated all the money from his lemonade stand to the playground fund. Clearly, this project had legs in the community early on.
The installation of the equipment took place over 3 days and a total of 60 volunteers made it happen. The bright t-shirt clad group worked and laughed together, and as I left after work each of those days the structure came to life with swings, a zip line and climbing spinner. I was curious about all the brightly coloured equipment and often thought about those circling kids and how they would marvel when they were finally let loose in there.
At the time, I didn’t know how many hours of work went into funding and building the playground but it was worth it to people like Maureen and the kids and everyone who gets to enjoy is now. But the playground wasn’t the only thing that was built. Community was built that day and is being built there, daily. Kids meet and become pals there. Families meet up there and build their own little communities too.
Many relationships resulted from this project but the most obvious and heartwarming result of the inclusive playground project in our community can be heard on any nice day. The sounds of kids’ laughter and joy can be heard from a block away and they’ll stay as long as they’re allowed because a group of incredible folks volunteered to make it just for them.
Learn more about the inclusive playground and the awesome folks that built it here.
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