Earlier this summer, two B.C. communities were each awarded a much-needed playground in their community worth up to $100,000. Thanks to BCAA Play Here, communities across the province rallied together to garner hundreds and thousands of public votes for play spaces in need of serious help.
Only one community was supposed to win the jackpot but, in a surprise announcement, BCAA doubled its contribution to support both Lillooet REC Centre and Victoria’s Torquay Elementary School with a new play space. A few months later, both communities are still buzzing with excitement.
“Everyone was so thrilled when we heard the news,” says Torquay Elementary Principal Cindy Harte. “We couldn’t have been more pleased for Torquay of course, but also for Lillooet. It was a tight contest and we both showed a great need, so it was a very generous gesture for BCAA to grant both communities the $100,000 award!”
Torquay Elementary entered the contest after their old wooden play structure was abruptly removed due to safety concerns, leaving no activity area for their young students. Parents at the school had been fundraising for over a year to build a new playground, but new structures don’t come cheap.
“We knew it would take several more years of saving and fundraising to come up with a decent amount of money,” said Harte.
By that time, most of the school’s students would have already moved on to high school.
Hundreds of flyers, posters, tweets, and phone calls later, Torquay earned over 125,000 public votes in the Play Here contest. They were neck and neck with Lillooet Rec Centre, which hoped to build the community its first playground. A survey of Lillooet locals found that 90 per cent of their population wished they had a playground in Lillooet’s town centre. Since 2013, the town has run a Lillooet Playground Committee to help achieve their goal of building a play structure for local children.
The town’s story compelled many across the province to submit votes in their favour. With only 2,300 people in the community, they garnered remarkable support and tallied over 125,000 votes. “When we saw how close the voting was between the top two finalists, we realized we wanted to find a way to support both of them” says Shawn Pettipas, BCAA’s Community Impact Manager. “With a clear need for a new play space in both Lillooet and Victoria, I’m delighted we could double our investment and reward such inspiring spirit in both communities.”
“There was tremendous spontaneous community involvement, and committee members worked hard to reach out through diverse networks to ask for support,” says Toby Mueller of the Lillooet Children First Committee.
“People got really excited about the competition. There is such an undeniable need for this playground that many people wanted to see us win.”
Mueller says they will have a “fun celebration” when the play structure is completed.
“This playground will be here for years to come, providing a space for children to have fun while they learn and grow. It will also be a pleasant reminder of what can happen when people come together and work towards a common goal.”
While both communities desperately needed a new playground, it wasn’t the only thing they had in common. The pride of teamwork is another sentiment shared by both winners.
“You know, one of the best things that have come out of this whole contest, besides the awesome playground that is going to be installed, is how our community pulled together for a great cause,” says Harte.
“Of course all the families of current Torquay students were very eager to help out, but what was so nice to see too were our neighbours and the broader community supporting us because their children and grandchildren once attended Torquay. There was such a great energy brought into the school.”
The children in Lillooet and Victoria are eagerly awaiting their play spaces’ completion by the end of 2016 (construction will soon be underway). With BCAA providing the means to build new playgrounds in each community, children will have a place to play for many years to come.
The first annual BCAA Play Here initiative will not be the last – the campaign will return bigger and better next year, thanks to the amazing participation from British Columbians across the province.
Stay tuned for the next round of community play space nominations in 2017. Want to be notified when the next BCAA Play Here nomination period begins? Sign up for BCAA’s Member Rewards e-news to find out, or visit BCAA Play Here to learn more!