It is amazing what a determined group of people can do when they set their minds to it.
At Holy Family Elementary School in Chapel Arm, kids didn’t have a place to play. Their playground was deemed unfit because it was so old and all that was left for the children was a ball field in disrepair, which wasn’t a whole lot of good to these young ones. The playground just down the road in Chapel Arm was also in bad shape.
It wasn’t long before a number of parents who saw that lack of a place to play for their children decided to do something about it.
Tracy Smith is one of the parents who helped start up a parent committee to look at solutions for the problem. She said they had their first meeting in November of last year, and about five parents showed up. At that first meeting, one of the parents who attended described a ‘Let Them Be Kids’ build in Lewisporte and described it to the group. The rest, as they say, was history.
As they worked their way through figuring out what to do to apply for the grant program, and through the entire exhaustive interview process, the committee began to grow and grow, and before long, parents from all around the isthmus - Bellevue, Fair Haven, Chance Cove, Norman’s Cove and Long Cove - were involved.
“We did the application work and by February 14 this year, we were announcing the funding at a school assembly,” said Smith.
“We actually found out about it in early January but had to keep it a secret until we could officially announce it,” she laughed. “That was not easy.”
Since the official announcement Feb. 14, the committee had been in full fundraising mode, working hard on things like a silent auction, selling tickets to donated prizes like two tickets on WestJet, and selling tickets on local artist Lloyd Pretty’s donated print.
“We made $10,000 on that alone,” said Smith. “The community support has just been unbelievable.”
As well, she said, there were card games, dances, and more. Whatever they could do to raise money, they did, and were fairly successful at it too.
In the end, the committee and the many volunteers and children involved raised $80,000, which was partially matched by ‘Let Them Be Kids’.
“’Let Them Be Kids’ matched the money we spend on playground equipment, which was $40,000, and the rest of the money we raised, another $60,000 went to things like the Memorial Garden, the outdoor classroom, fixing up the ball field and fences and dugouts, and landscaping” said Smith. The entire project cost $140,000.
All in all, the committee of 18 parents of children who attend Holy Family Elementary did a great service to all the children of the isthmus area, who will be able to use the playground and surrounding area for years to come.
The playground is just to the side of the school, with a large ball field beyond that, and now a new basketball court right behind the school. There is now a walking trail around the whole school and associated play areas, a picnic area with benches on a hill overlooking the playground. As well, there is an outdoor classroom, a Memorial Garden dedicated to all the children who “were taken too soon.” During the opening ceremonies held on June 9, parents and relatives of those children were asked to plant a flower in their child’s memory. There is also a plaque on display, which has the names of all the children from the area who have passed away.
The playground itself boasts plenty of swings, a climbing wall, lots of monkey bars and things to climb over and hang from as well as numerous slides, including a triple slide that looks like tonnes of fun.
On Build Day, over 300 volunteers came along to help with approximately 150 children waiting to run onto the playground and try out their new equipment.
The day was warm and sunny, a perfect day to open a playground. With a few speeches, including from Avalon MP Scott Andrews and Bellevue MHA Calvin Peach, and others, the excitement grew. When the committee handed out red balloons to be released, the anticipation on the faces of the children was obvious. The speeches weren’t entirely over when the kids made a run for the piece of equipment they’d been eyeing all day and wanted to first try, and then the playground was swamped with kids – running, climbing, jumping, smiling – just what the parent committee had hoped for.
“The kids have been so unbelievably good. They’ve been excited and counting down the sleeps, and then counting down the hours, and then minutes,” said Smith. “We are so happy to be able to have done this for our children and for the children that will come after them. The certainly deserve it, as do all children.”
Members of the committee include Tracy Smith, Tonya Newhook, Colin Newhook, Pat Power, Colleen Power, Michael Hurley, Stephanie Hurley, Shawn Reid, Alisha Reid, Jessica Higdon, Krista Murphy, Sandy McKitrick, Susan Jarvis, Stephanie Piercey, Melinda Smith, Sherry Reid, Courtney Murphy, and Ann Mercer.