Tag Archives: parent groups raise money for school playgrounds

It’s official: we built a playground!

For the past two years I have dedicated my spare time to helping a group of local moms plan, fundraise for and — finally — build a new playground and naturalization area at the local elementary school. Five out of six of us have children attending the school and we found ourselves in a “You need to do this or the children won’t have a playground,” situation. Yes, we were all somewhat guilted into volunteering for what turned into A BEAST.

Before:

This was taken three weeks ago, when a crane was off-loading the equipment.

This was taken three weeks ago, when a crane was off-loading the new equipment.

After:

Our kids' new play park, complete with picnic tables, play equipment and a naturalization area intended to foster creative play.

Our kids’ new play park, complete with picnic tables, play equipment and a naturalization area intended to foster creative play.

We could have just taken the easy way out and ordered ugly Blue Imp equipment from the blinged-out dude who showed up at the school with a brochure one day back in 2011.  We could have just pointed to page 49 and said, “Yes, we’ll take the cheap-looking apparatus with the super lame short slides,” and then put everything in the same place as the old playground. But no. We had dreams of something grander; a vision that could only be realized slowly, over long periods of time at many meetings during which gin and tonics were liberally consumed — a never-before-been-assembled-colossal-play-structure-from-Germany kind of dream, along with a forest of trees and a ginormous donor pathway.

Before:

A volunteer toils away on a donor pathway, which turns out to be much harder to execute than originally thought.

A volunteer toils away on the donor pathway, which turns out to be much harder to execute than originally thought.

After:

Many thanks to the community and corporate donors who made the playground (and pathway!) possible.

Many thanks to the community and corporate donors who made the playground (and pathway!) possible.

Our brick:

I also love that we have a donor brick in the pathway! A very cool (and affordable) way for families to get involved and take ownership of the new park.

I also love that we have a donor brick! A very cool (and affordable) way for families to get involved and take ownership of the new park.

I was going to blog about our struggles trying to get ‘er done on time and on budget, with our sanity miraculously intact. But now, in hindsight, what’s the point? Does the world really need to know about the crazy porta-potty lady? Or the 11th-hour “crowsnest” fix? No.

Though it caused us many headaches (and much pillow-screaming), in the end it paid off to dream big. We have a spectacular new playground that is a huge improvement over the dumpy old equipment. What’s more, we have trees, a stone amphitheatre, picnic tables, benches and a beautiful donor pathway. Did I mention the warm-fuzzy feeling I got when I watched my kids play on the new equipment at the grand opening party this past weekend?

Happy kids:

Bennett leads the troop across the rope bridge at the new playground.

Bennett leads the troops across the rope bridge at the new playground.

Avery takes a rest on the rope bridge.

Avery takes a rest on the rope bridge.

It was also so nice and affirming to hear the words of thanks and congratulations spoken by many community members and school parents on opening day. Mayor Nenshi even came by to officially open the playground, talk about the importance of play and lead the kids in reciting a playground pledge.

Mayor Nenshi has the children pledge they'll have fun -- and keep the playground free of litter and weeds!

Mayor Nenshi has the children pledge they’ll have fun — and keep the playground free of litter and weeds!

I know I complained about the project when we were in the trenches, but it feels great to see a project like this come to fruition. As Nenshi said, we’re starting the second century of playgrounds in Calgary with this brand new play park at Colonel Walker School!

My kid’s school needs a new playground

For the past 18 months I have been part of a playground committee that is raising money for a new playground at my daughter’s elementary school. It’s a very worthwhile project — no one can deny the importance of a playground or the role it plays in child development — but the process of getting a new one is, frankly, brutal.

Peeling paint adds to our school playground's woes.

Peeling paint adds to our school playground’s woes. This old play structure is scheduled to be removed so we need to raise $$ for a new one!

I wrote about our struggles in a column for the Calgary Herald that went up online on Thursday. It appears in the print edition (Weekend Life section) of Saturday’s paper. You never know what the response to this kind of story will be. Would I come across as a big whiner? Would people be sympathetic to our plight and dig deep to donate thousands of dollars? Or would they tell me to take a reality pill, shelve our extensive (and costly) naturalization and play structure plans, and spend money on soccer balls instead?

Most of the feedback I have received has been supportive. I’ve gotten e-mails from  fellow moms who are on playground committees at other schools (and thus going through the same trials and tribulations) telling me to hang in there. Other readers have been shocked to find out that, 1. New playgrounds are very expensive, and 2. It’s up to parent groups to raise funds to pay for them, as the cost is not government- or school board-funded.

There have also been comments implying that school playgrounds are unnecessary extras. One reader suggested we take out the play structure and buy balls for the kids to chase around. “Way more fun than swinging, climbing, and sliding,” he wrote on the Herald website. “Get them playing pick-up sports.” Another reader wrote: “You want a 270 thousand dollar playground — that’s going to take a lot of effort and a lot of gin. A playground area is nice, it’s not a necessity.”

I like her idea about more gin, but I disagree with her comment that a playground is not a necessity. While organized sports promote teamwork and certainly have their place, a playground is a gathering place where children can engage in creative play that is not directed by adults. As structured activities take over our busy lives, this kind of unstructured play time is crucial to child development but is sorely missing.

Our future play park will have both an interesting play structure, as well as elements such as boulders, logs, trees and stumps  that can be incorporated into imaginative games at recess — and, after school hours, by all the kids in the community. It’s worth noting that naturalized playgrounds like the one we have planned are gaining momentum as educators realize the limitations of lone play structures.

My sincere hope is that we can raise enough money to see our play park become a reality. What do you think? Are we out to lunch or should we keep the dream alive over more G&Ts?