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Pledge Day inspires donations for accessible playgrounds in Alberta

Click to play video: 'After years of fundraising, Okotoks now sports all-inclusive playground'
After years of fundraising, Okotoks now sports all-inclusive playground
WATCH: Ask any parent with kids in elementary school; playgrounds are expensive to build. Especially if they are designed for all kids to enjoy. Here’s Norma Reid. – Nov 29, 2022

The Calgary Children’s Foundation annual Pledge Day is this Friday, December 2. Once again, the radiothon will broadcast live on 770 CHQR and listeners can call in to make donations.

Money raised is dispersed throughout the community to deserving groups dedicated to enriching the lives of children.

One of those groups is Variety the Children’s Charity which is focused on building accessible playgrounds.

Global News recently toured a playground in Okotoks. It features ramps, catwalks, a merry-go-round built seamlessly into the ground and special rubberized flooring.

“It can’t happen without pledge day and the donors,” said Variety’s Larry Horeczy. He said these types of builds can cost upwards of $500,000 or more. An enormous price tag that falls on parents to fundraise — which takes years to be completed.

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The Okotoks playground began because of a friendship between two youngsters Gabbi Wildeman and Bentlee Alwood. The two met in kindergarten.

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“It’s hard seeing my best friend not getting to play and be included with everyone else,” said Wildeman. She’s referring to Alwood who uses a wheelchair. “So I wanted to do something.”

The two got together with their families and the fundraising began.

Even though families raised enough money to build part of the playground in stages, it was never quite enough. Not to mention the additional $250,000 expense just to build the rubber floor which they quickly realized was key to making it truly accessible.

“The challenge came that once they got onto this playground, they realized that kids couldn’t actually maneuver on the surfacing,” said Horeczy.

That’s when Variety stepped in with community partners, including funds from Calgary Children’s Foundation. Finally, the playground could be built the way it was always meant to be, and all kids could enjoy it.

Kids like Vayda Badke. The grade six student uses a walker to help her get around.

“It makes me kind of happy because I can walk up there and back down without having any trouble,” she said.

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Completing the playground is meaningful work. It’s changed the lives of many kids in Okotoks who no longer have to watch others have fun from the sidelines. Nobody is excluded.

Okotoks is just one of many neighbourhoods desperate for such a space.

“These communities, they’re reaching out to us all over the place and they need your help,” said Horeczy, hoping that showcasing this playground will inspire others to donate to Pledge Day.

To donate, you can call the station on Friday December 2, or visit Calgary Children’s Foundation website.

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