The parking lot at the Wetaskiwin Mall was a flurry of activity on May 28th, 2015 as a steady stream of parents with their pre-school children made their way to the south entrance of the Mall. Inside they were greeted by a huge room filled with excited children, laughing faces, a variety of playground equipment, a bouncy house, petting zoo, games, face painting, picnic tables, and a table filled with food. The activities were constantly being captured on cell phone cameras by their parents and grandparents. Spiderman was a hit with the kids and became the ‘star’ of the show.
They event was the year end party celebrating another successful and enjoyable year for CHIPs (Children’s Indoor Play Society) in their new venue. The former Canadian Tire/Western RV has been transformed into a huge indoor playground and has become the centre-for-happiness for pre-school children since the fall of 2014.
CHIPs had been operating in the City of Wetaskiwin Drill Hall for 30 years but in 2014, CHIPS moved to the Wetaskiwin Mall when they learned that City Council would be raising their (CHIPS) fees for rental of the Drill Hall by $20/hour. This was an increase from $30 per hour to almost double at $50 per hour.
CHIPs has a history 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 as an affordable and accessible option for local families.
It turns out the move has been positive for all as suggested by Slava Fedossenko, Endurance Equities Corp (owners of the Mall), “We’re really excited for the Mall to be the new home base for CHIPs. Since they came over in December 2014, their space is always full of infectious energy, and they throw great events throughout the year which we really enjoy being a part of. Having gotten to know and work with them over the last 6 months, it’s been a pleasure and we look forward to all kinds of fun in the years to come.”
CHIPs is a parent supervised playgroup. They have acquired an inventory of toys, bikes, slides, climbing blocks, bouncy house and a variety of playthings that provide a safe environment where children can play and have fun. Children can move from one area to another freely and as one parent suggested, “It is a safe, fun environment for burning off lots of kid energy.”
“My kids have gone to CHIPs for a year and we have noticed a difference in their social skills. We have found they are more outgoing and able to go make new friends,” described parent Ashley Anderson as she talked about the value of having CHIPs in Wetaskiwin. “The Mall is a good venue because it allows for new parents to drop in when they are out shopping at the Mall. Without CHIPs I would be travelling to Edmonton for my children to go play at an indoor play centre.” Anderson also sees a value-added feature with CHIPS. “CHIPs is such a great place for kids to socialize and meet new friends but it also allows for parents to get out and have adult time and meet new parents while our children are running off energy.”
It costs very little to drop in to check out CHIPS, $5.00 a visit to a maximum of fifteen visits. Membership is $65.00 per year for the first child to a maximum of $165.00 per family. CHIPs also offers a new option of $100 per child with no mandatory fundraising obligations. They are open Monday and Thursday mornings from 9:30-11:30am, September to May except when schools are closed.
The Children’s Indoor Play Society is a non-profit organization created by Moms and Dads to give preschool kids a place to play and interact during the long winter months. It is run by a board of directors chosen by election from the general membership. As a registered, non-profit society, CHIPs funds its operations based on membership dues, fundraising activities, and donations from individuals and corporate sponsors.
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.