Build Community and Build Yourself Up Too

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 something updated and safer, but inclusive equipment so that parents and children of all abilities could enjoy it. They spent countless hours in meetings and canvassing community businesses for support to gather the resources and funds needed to make the structure 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 donating all the money from his lemonade stand to the playground. 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 group of bright t-shirt clad folks 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 let loose in there.

At the time, I didn’t know how many hours of work went into funding and building that playground, but I can tell you that it was an astronomical amount. 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 and incredible memories will be made here at the centre for decades to come because of it, but the most incredible result of the inclusive playground project in our community can be seen on any nice day. The sounds of kids’ laughter and joy are uplifting, and they’ll stay as long as they’re allowed (many beg to stay just a bit longer) 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

Look for this blog every 2 weeks in the email newsletter and on our community news page too!

Vanessa Gillard

Programming and community engagement coordinator at the Thorncliffe Greenview Community Association. Spouse Adam Grayton

Leave a Reply