Huntsville Public School (HPS), and by extension the larger community, now has an accessible playground that all kids can use. It took hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations and many passionate people, but they made it happen in time for the start of the school year.
The reaction of the students has been “unbelievable,” said HPS principal Todd Truax, adding that many of the school’s 512 pupils can be found using the playground before school and at recess, and that there have already been kids from the community coming to play in the evenings and on weekends. “There’s not a lot of green space around so this is another place for kids to play.”
The project was initiated by a group of grade six students during the 2016-2017 school year. Aided by teachers who quickly formed a project committee, they ran some fundraisers in the school, but they soon learned that with an estimated cost of more than $300,000—half of which would be paid by the board through a matching program—they were going to need community support.
They got it. Donations large and small came in during the following months with several substantial donations in late 2017 and early 2018—$40,000 from the Rotary Club of Huntsville and $20,000 from an anonymous donor—putting their goal within reach. With enough funds in hand, construction on the playground began over the summer of 2018 so that the playground would be ready for the start of school in September.
Proud committee members—Kerri-Lynne Knappett, Amy Dore, Emily FitzGerald, Tracy McCarthy, Kate McNaughton, and Jamie Moore—students, teachers, donors and dignitaries gathered at the playground on September 12 to celebrate.
Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) Chair Louise Clodd and local Trustee Bruce Reain thanked everyone involved in the project. “I want to thank, on behalf of our board, everyone who has been involved. This is definitely a community event,” said Reain, who added to the young students assembled that he hoped they would help him out when he wanted to try one of the slides.
Larry Hope, TLDSB Director of Education, was delighted with how many students he saw playing on the new structures. “That’s exactly why all of these wonderful people came together to make this happen and build this for you,” he told the students. “This is a wonderful example of a partnership between our parents, our community, our service providers—thank you on behalf of all of us at TLDSB. We are so very, very grateful.”
The playground features a rubberized surface that is both easier on young knees and easily navigable for students in wheelchairs or who have reduced mobility, as well as ramps, swings and slides to make the playground structures accessible.
The major donors and supporters of the project were:
Gold: Anonymous, Canada 150, HPS Parent Council, HPS staff, students and families, Rethink Tires, Rotary Club of Huntsville, Sandy and Esther Jennings,The Muskoka Community, Trillium Lakelands District School Board, Baysville Lions Club, Geoff Corbett and Danielle Martin, Kiwanis Club of Huntsville, Northbound Elements, South Mary Lake Contracting, ThermoSeal Insulation Systems;
Silver: Betty Fulton, Castle Trophies and Engraving, David Papernick, MBRP, Nutty Chocolatier, Panolam Industries, ProActive Rehab, RBC with Muskoka Family Focus, Scotiabank Huntsville, Scott Doughty;
Bronze: Barriston Law, Edmonds Chevrolet Buick GMC, Heather Hunter, Marlee Hamilton and Mathew Hughes, Huntsville Lioness Club, Huntsville’s Hometown Drugstore, Jeff Edwards, Main St. Local Kitchen, Muskoka Bicycle ProShop, Sweet Lina Creative, The Melvin Family, Trillium Lakelands Elementary Teacher’s Local, UP North Games.
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