Bottle drives, markets, raffle draws, and late night grant writing will soon slow down for six members of the Friends of Fireside School Fundraising Committee.

Coming together over two years ago, the volunteer committee has worked extremely hard to bring the playground of their dreams to fruition.

Rolling up their sleeves, this committee alongside an army of volunteers, are getting ready to build Cochrane's truly inclusive playground beginning tomorrow evening (September 13).

Laura McDonald, President of Friends of Fireside shares as long as Mother Nature somewhat cooperates they are ready. "It starts tomorrow night and we will unload all the equipment from the truck and then we have 30 volunteers all day Friday and all day Saturday building the playground."

The Fireside School playground will be truly unique in design by allowing children to play side by side no matter what limitations they may be experiencing. Building an all accessible playground was influenced by committee members own children with needs and inspired by a Fireside School student and wheelchair user, named Malik. 

McDonald shares if the stars align and a date works out, Malik will be the first student to test out the equipment. "He is kind of an impetus for this design. He was a big supporter of how we designed the playground because we didn't want to drop the ball or make promises and not follow through. We used his input a lot." 

The committee is not only looking forward to seeing Malik smile and play, so are all the students. "We had kids at our school running their own fundraisers for this and those kids weren't just fundraising for a 'playground' they were fundraising for a playground that that little boy can come on with them. It was a big inspiration not just for us adults but all the kids as well, to see that little boy in a wheelchair on the playground side by side with all his buddies."

The Friends of Fireside raised $150,000 on top of the $250,000 grant they received from the Provincial Government back in 2016 and all of it was done in a very collaborative manner. "We knew we were taking on something quite ambitious and we didn't want to delay this playground at all. So we thought we don't need to reinvent the wheel here, many successful campaigns have come before us so we reached out to many, many different organizations and had many coffee meetings picking people's brains about grants we could go after, corporations who might find this as an idea that might resonate with them, and we really stood on the shoulders of people who have been successful before us."

Reaching their $400,000 goal there will be no phasing of the playground, which at one time was being considered depending on funds. "There are no phases, this will be the full playground. We are using every inch that the district would give's a big playground and there is nowhere else to put anymore playground."

McDonald says the biggest part of the whole project has been the support they received. From parents of students to businesses big and small, the whole community has really rallied for this playground to come to be.  Giving thanks to some key people and organizations, McDonald is hopeful she doesn't miss anyone. "Some at the top of my mind is the developer and builders in Fireside and Riversong, so LaVita was a huge contributor as well as all the home builders. In terms of the build itself, we have Fitness 1440 (new gym opening in Riversong) they are boots on the ground helping us build the playground and they are also buying us lunch one day of the build, Boston Pizza is supplying lunch another day, we have LaFarge in Exshaw they are bringing out staff as well as bringing a bunch of work gloves for everyone, Trans Canada will have staff on site Friday for building and I could go on and on. The support is unbelievable and we are almost turning away people at this point."

The build, as long as weather conditions don't risk any safety, is anticipated to wrap up late Saturday afternoon (September 15) with the rubber base beginning to be poured next week with the completion to conclude in a few weeks. The Friends of Fireside are looking forward to cutting the ribbon on the new play structure in mid-October. "We would like to get all of our sponsors, as many community members as we can get and, of course, the kids jumping on that playground for the first time."

Collaboration at its finest, the Fireside School Playground is a partnership between Rocky View Schools, the playground company, the community, Fireside School and the Town of Cochrane. "There are so many players in an initiative like this it has been really neat watching everyone to do what they can to get this playground in before the snow falls."

This playground will not only be used by Fireside School students or even community-wide, this group of dedicated individuals is putting Cochrane on the map as being a leader for inclusion and accessibility. "It benefits every resident, not just the people that need those programs, but benefits every single person. I think Cochrane is really setting a standard for other communities across the country."

Congratulations to all of those involved in bringing this playground to town.


Financial Push Is On for Cochrane's Truly Inclusive Playground

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