“There’s nothing in the park for us kids to play on.” This comment from an older child, referring to the playground equipment at the Ashcroft pool park, prompted a small group of local residents to think about fundraising for some new equipment at the park; and 18 months later, these efforts have resulted in the installation of new equipment designed for children up to the age of 16.
The equipment was officially unveiled on September 17, and the overcast weather did not dampen the spirits of a group of children there to take advantage of it. Andrea Walker, one of the volunteers, explained that raising the money necessary was not an easy task.
First they approached Ashcroft council to get the go-ahead to install new equipment at the pool park. They then approached the South Cariboo Elizabeth Fry Society (SCEFS) and asked if they would spearhead the project.
“When [SCEFS executive director] Yoriko Susanj first brought the project to the SCEFS board, we were pretty excited about being able to contribute to something tangible that would have a direct impact on children and the community,” says SCEFS board chair Susan Schalles. With the society backing the project, members of the playground equipment committee were able to start raising funds and applying for grants.
Teck Highland Valley Copper (HVC) stepped up with a grant of $10,000. Jacqui Schneider, senior community affairs officer for HVC, said in a statement read out at the unveiling that “We wanted to express that we, our employees, live in the communities in which we operate. We are neighbours, parents, coaches, and friends—people who care and take pride in helping our communities be great places to live and raise a family.”
The HVC funding was made possible by its community partnership initiative, and Schneider says that they “applaud the initiative of the South Cariboo Elizabeth Fry Society and its volunteers in actively meeting the needs” of the community.
Randi Purfield, the senior safety coordinator for HVC, was at the unveiling. “For a number of years I came here as a soccer parent, so I see the real value of [the new equipment]. It’s a great addition. If you’re here for a tournament it gives the non-players something to do.”
Walker agrees. “So many children and families are here in soccer and swimming season, and it will be absolutely wonderful for them. Families know there is a place for children to play. It’s nothing but a total benefit for everyone.”
United Way Thompson Nicola Cariboo (UW) also donated $10,000 to the project from its local community fund, and Amy Berard, the UW’s community impact manager, says that donations to that fund come largely from HVC. “One of our focuses is on letting children be all that they can be. This is a safe space for them to do that, and makes the whole area nicer.”
Other local groups also donated funds for the equipment. “Thank goodness we have such terrific service clubs in our town,” says Walker. “They were the ones who stepped up, showed confidence in the project, and helped get the ball rolling.”
Volunteers work to install the new playground equipment. Photo by Barbara Roden.
Volunteers worked over the weekend of September 10 to take the site from a hole in the ground to a completed project. Walker thanks the Village of Ashcroft crew for prepping the site; Randy Porter of Desert Hills Ranch for unloading the crate of equipment from the delivery truck; and the Lions and Rotary clubs for providing lunch to the hard-working volunteers on both days. There was also, she says, a “very generous and thoughtful lady who brought fresh-baked scones and hot chocolate on Sunday morning.”
There are two other pieces that the committee would like to have installed at the site, says Walker. “If more fundraising is done then the site could expand. It was awesome working with Yoriko and the board of Elizabeth Fry. What a fantastic community we live in!”