PLAYGROUND ACTIVITY AREA FOR ESSEX, ONTARIO
Created September 27, 2010 by June DeVries
How do we create memories for children in a community that works together?
We set a worthwhile goal of a Community Playground and we empower residents to achieve it.
Each of us has fond memories of playing at a playground whether it be at the school we attended or a local playground. The community of Essex, Ontario wants to help create these memories for our students, children within the community, families both young and old and any visitors to our town. Our youngest students will one day return with their own children to enjoy the area they took part in creating. On October 4th, 2010, community spirit came to life in the town of Essex. Residents, both young and old, from north to south, east to west, registered to vote. Everyone started recruiting family and friends with a goal of creating this fully accessible playground for families. We swept everyone up in a tidal wave of enthusiasm and the town became totally immersed in an AVIVA frenzy.
Essex is a small rural town which is the hub of Essex County. Many people commute to work in neighbouring communities. Unfortunately our region now has the highest unemployment rate in Canada of 11%. Our Essex Food Bank currently serves 300 families per week. The Essex County Community Living Association is situated in Essex and supports 600 clients with multiple disabilities in the surrounding area. They have nine houses and several apartments within the vicinity of the school. Through a newly formed partnership they will bring clients to utilize the snoezelen room and would love to enjoy an adjacent, fully accessible park.
Essex Public School, a JK-8 school with 520 students is located in a residential area in the heart of the town. We are a Special Education hub school with approximately 40 special needs students, some of whom are bussed in from surrounding communities. We house a child care centre which also provides before and after school care.
Our hometown hockey heroes, the Essex 73s embraced the project wholeheartedly, and the fans jumped on board to promote and support our idea through voting. The town was plastered with signs (see our pictures), posters, and flyers. A local corporate business, Vista Print, donated a banner and lawn signs to help us get the word out to the public. Local businesses, service clubs, unions and students from surrounding schools all stepped up to the plate. We had a poster contest where winners were treated to a limousine ride and lunch in a local establishment. Thank you to Elegant Limousine and the Winger family for promoting our idea through advertising. One of our strongest supporters is Scott from Essex Source for Sports.
We entered a parade and kicked it all off with a truly inspiring pep rally. Local newspapers and radio stations gave us the opportunity to share our goal and seek new support. Our discussion board reflects the level of passion, energy and teamwork that ensued. Our campaign was positive and meaningful. In the end a town with a core population of 6,700 had registered over 4,000 supporters and logged an incredible 22,059 votes.
This playground area will be the first fully accessible area for children and adults with special needs in the Town of Essex.
Our students are complaining that the playground area is boring and that there is nothing to do. This dream for a fully functional playground area will allow for children to use their creativity with play, also give them space for quiet times, learning areas, and most of all a space to form memories with friends and families.
At this point we have planted a few trees and have entered a partnership with the Town of Essex to maintain the baseball diamond on site. We have also developed an excellent working relationship with the Town of Essex, the Essex 73s Hockey Club, the Essex Rotary Club and local businesses. This grant application has stimulated interest in our school and our vision for the play area. We have been able to teach our children that anything is possible when a community comes together. Up to this point, we have raised money through various fundraisers and grants, and have an active Playground Committee comprised of parents, staff and community members.
Our Committee has worked tirelessly to ensure that all plans, designs, product installation quotes are in place. We are confident in our ability to proceed, but funding is our hurdle. Our vision is to see the first phases of our project completed in the Spring of 2011. Through Facility Services in the local School Board, a maintenance plan has been established. Additional funding in the future will allow us to improve and expand upon our plans.
Thank you AVIVA for allowing our school to enter your contest. In hope that we can work together to take an empty field and turn it into a playground activity area that will impact the Town of Essex and create dreams and memories for years to come....