The Drill Hall in Wetaskiwin was a flurry of activity on December 12, 2013 as parents, grandparents, children and grandchildren celebrated the annual CHIPS (Children’s Indoor Play Society) Christmas party. The Drill Hall was transformed into a huge indoor playground and became the centre-for-happiness during the two hour party. Children, parents and grandparents joined together to play with the toys, inflated bouncy houses, slides and other playground type equipment and riding cars and tricycles. A Christmas party would not be a Christmas party without lots of goodies and treats and most importantly, Santa. A steady stream of children were posed with Santa for photographs as he listened to each and every request for the ‘wish-for’ Christmas present and gave each of them a small gift.
Francois Courtemanche, President of CHIPS, describes the organization as, “a non-profit society created by Moms and Dads to give preschool kids a place to play and interact during the long winter months”. Each Monday and Thursday from September to May the Drill Hall is transformed into a unique huge indoor playground. Children can tear around on the riding toys, burn off energy on variety of playground type equipment, play in toy houses and share a huge variety of other toys. CHIPS is a great opportunity for both children and adults to escape from their households during the long winter months. It is a venue where the children can burn off energy and provides different ways for them to interact with their parents. While the children learn playing and communication skills from each other, the program allows parents to congregate and visit.
CHIPS has been active in the Wetaskiwin community for 29 years.
Courtemanche stressed the importance of keeping fees affordable so all families can access the activities. “CHIPS is run on a very tight budget while at the same time is committed to keeping our program accessible to all members of the community. CHIPS is an affordable and accessible option for local families. As a registered, non-profit society, CHIPS funds its operations based on membership dues, fundraising activities, and donations from individuals and corporate sponsors.
Our current membership fees are $50 per child per year and up to a maximum of $125 per family. In addition to the membership fees, each family is responsible for completing one fundraising activity (casino shift or selling raffle tickets), and participating in one toy wash, which happens monthly. Families can also attend CHIPS on a drop-in basis for a fee of $4 per child, with a maximum of 5 drop-ins per family until a membership is required. The program operates in the Drill Hall on Mondays and Thursdays, 56 days a year, from 9:30am to 11:30am.”
For the past 29 years, thousands of children have been exposed to the social development opportunities that CHIPS provides. They host a variety of parties and special events including the Christmas party, Halloween Party, and special visits from the Wetaskiwin Fire Department, Ambulance Service and RCMP detachment.
“In the last program year, we had over 100 children signed up as members plus a large number of children who join us periodically as drop ins. Although the majority of the members are from Wetaskiwin, CHIPS has members from as far away as Ponoka and Millet.”
Courtemanche was very quick to point out that, “CHIPS is fortunate to have a partner in the Horizon's Centre, who provide our set-up and take-down service and ensure that the play structures and toys are set up for the children to enjoy each week.” The partnership with Horizon’s Centre is very positive as it provides CHIPS with dependable services and Horizon’s Centre with meaningful employment, a source of income and a sense of accomplishment.
Observing children enjoying a wide variety of activities and content looking parents, it is very evident that CHIPS is an organization that can be very proud of the service that it provides for the families of this community.
For further information checkout the website at www.chipswetaskiwin.com or drop into the Drill Hall on a Monday or Thursday in 2014 to participate in the fun