Hundreds of staff, parents, students, donors and neighbours gathered at Centennial Public School to officially open a new fully-accessible $102,000 play structure Thursday night, after four years of dedicated fundraising.
The colourful structure, which features a ramp to a small slide and games such as x’s and o’s at ground level as well as a longer slide and small climbing walls, is specifically designed so that disabled children can play on it.
The fundraising efforts were directed by the school parents’ council, and the current chair paid tribute to one of her predecessors, who spearheaded the drive.
“This play structure would not have been possible without the dedication and vision of one person, Sue Derby,” said Helen Dowd.
The structure, which was first envisaged four years ago, required immense amounts of fundraising and was nearly cancelled a year ago, said Derby.
She said an anonymous $50,000 donation – which matched the amount that had already been raised – came through the Education Foundation of Ottawa, giving the council enough funds to build its dream playground.
Children were able to play on it starting last week, and the sight of tens of kids running up, down and around the brand new equipment filled Derby with one emotion, she said: “Overwhelming joy!”
Principal Brenda Martin said 18 of the school’s 200 students have mobility problems, and that all of the children are enjoying the new structure.
“They’re just thrilled and even the older students, who may think they’re too old or sophisticated for a play structure, are loving it,” she said.
Donors to the structure included a nearby apartment complex, various charitable foundations, corporations and the school board and City itself.