Thorsby School kids along with Diana McQueen, other dignitaries and Teachers pose with $110,435 cheque.
On November 16, 2012, excited students, teachers and administrators, parents, school board officials and dignitaries packed the Thorsby Elementary School gymnasium for the long awaited Grant Ceremony for a new playground. The elementary school band played and the choir sang thank you’s and danced their way into everyone's heart.
The Honourable Diana McQueen, MLA for Drayton Valley-Calmar, presented a Community Facility Enhancement Program (CFEP) matching grant cheque for $110,435 to the Thorsby Elementary Parents Association (TEPA), and was inspired to say, “I have never seen such an excitement for a playground grant as I see here today!”
Speeches of appreciation, commendation and background information were presented by Thorsby Elementary School Principal Zane Chomlak; Black Gold Regional Schools Associate Superintendent Calvin Monty; BGRS Board Chair Sandy Koroll; BGRS Board Vice- Chair Rebecca Eilander; Black Gold School Trustee Sam Kobeluck; Former Principal Chris Grab; TEPA President Kim Chung; and TEPA Playground Coordinator Shawna Ofstie.
All work and no place to play
When the new school was built over the site of the previous wooden playground, Playground Safety Standards put the kibosh to relocating it to another site on the schoolyard. Try to imagine an elementary school–teeming with rambunctious school children–with limited playground equipment available. It simply wouldn't do! So TEPA—that energetic, hard working, never-say-die band of volunteer fundraisers—started raising money in 2009.
Parents and teachers unite
The designer, Peak Play Environments President, Trevor Zahara, was amazed by the input from the parents and the teachers. “One thing that can be said of this Thorsby group, when we came out to make our presentation, there was at least an equal number of teachers in the room along with the parents. Quite often that is not the case. The staff at Thorsby School were strongly supportive of the parents that were carrying the ball for this. And the enthusiasm in the parent group, the core group—they were humble, not trying to be heroes—they spearheaded it and solicited support from the whole community…a very strong driving force.”
In 2010, a group of parents Shauna Hayman, Tammy DeBoer, and Shawna Ofstie and teachers Raylene Jubinville, Kim Brightman, Brian Stern, and Brad Yaremko formed the official fundraising committee.
The whole community supported such initiatives as the “Scraptacular” scrapbooking annual event which raised over $5,000; Pennies for the Playground–$2,250 earned; 230 businesses donated $33,000 in cash donations and $20,000 in in-kind donations; and the ABBA concert which netted $11,712.88.
To date, TEPA has raised $65,449.37 in cash and $20,633.55 in in-kind donations. Add to that $20,100 from working casinos and $5,000 allocated from TEPA’s General Account, the total comes to approximately $111,180.
Former principal Chris Grab and TEPA President Kim Chung assisted TEPA Playground Coordinator Shawna Ofstie’s on writing the two grant applications respectively. The second grant application was successful. And, when combined with the fundraised amount, covers the cost of the new playground project—a bit over $221,000.
The project includes playground equipment, garbage bins, picnic tables, benches, wood carpet base, concrete, lumber for perimeter, landscape fabric, excavation, paving stone patio area and the concrete pad.
The design itself
Zahara said the year-round playground will challenge children physically and intellectually. “There are fine motor skill challenges, balance and upper body strength challenges.”
“Children with limited physical abilities will also be welcomed in this space,” added Zahara. He describes the design as unique and visually stimulating.
There is a large component that looks like a set of dice stacked up diagonally with climbing walls on these cubes. Another component called the “five spoke fusion” looks like a giant spider with each leg having a different play opportunity under the arch. There is a large climbing wall and climbing posts; bouncing spinning pogo pods; a large five foot diameter wheel that children can spin on ; “wiggle pods” feature a flexible pedestal for kids to step on that will provide balance challenges.
I've been everywhere man…but in Thorsby…
Zahara has been building playgrounds for 25 years and in several countries (Hong Kong, Egypt, and the Caribbean) and from Inuvik to Tampa Bay, from Trois-Rivieres to Vancouver Island; but he admits his favorite projects are those in smaller communities where they are whole-heartedly invested in and committed to the physical wellness and recreation and activity of their children.
“That is definitely the case of the staff at Thorsby Elementary school and the parents that are behind this project. It’s not often that the whole community gets behind a project to physically participate in the construction of something for their children, and that’s what we’ll be doing as a community project.”
The playground will be assembled by community volunteers over the second weekend of May, 2013 (Mother’s Day weekend). To volunteer, please e-mail Shawna Ofstie at email@example.com.