By Rizwana Shaikh and Jacey Conway, Federation of Calgary Communities
In the summer days, when the sun was shining and people filled the community, the playground adjacent to the Thorncliffe Greenview Community Association (TGCA) remained unused. Not many children were seen playing on the rusty playground equipment and many older Thorncliffe residents remember the structure from their own childhood.
Amanda Ocampo, a mother and Thorncliffe resident, saw the old unused space and decided she wanted a better play space for her children and her community. She wanted to create an environment where people could come to relax and connect with each other.
“I just thought no kids would come to this playground,” says Ocampo. “I wasn’t thinking on the scope of what’s happening, I was just thinking ‘anything to bring kids in,’” she adds.
The journey to recreating the playground began when Ocampo placed an ad in the community newsletter calling for volunteers to take initiative and help with the project. Maureen O’Brien was the first to answer her call and the two have become an unstoppable team. They formed the Playground subcommittee in the TGCA and began to make their vision come to life.
The vision the two ladies had was a place for all children to be welcome and able to play. Ocampo recalls the days when her nephews, who both have autism, were “left out” from activities growing up and she wanted to ensure this new playground took the route towards inclusion and accessibility.
“How can you have something like a playground of all places and limit children?” says Ocampo.
Although the cost of making the playground accessible runs about 30 to 40 per cent more, they chose to make it happen.
Two years into their planning, Variety, the Children’s Charity of Alberta became a partner on the project. Variety was able to assist the pair with submitting and negotiating grants, acquiring city funding, design work, erecting the playground, coordinating the installation, and providing volunteers.
With the help of Variety, the two mothers began working on the project, holding various events to engage residents and find out what people wanted in their neighbourhood playground. They also held various fundraising events, applied for over 30 separate grants, met with builders, planners, and city members all in preparation to begin building.
After being delayed five times, the pair was able to start construction with the help of builders and community volunteers in August.
“People in the community came together,” says O’Brien.
Finally, after years of hard work, the new Thorncliffe Greenview Accessible park was opened to the public on September 28th. The community braved the snowy weather and came together to celebrate with a ribbin cutting ceremony and cake for all!
“Its surreal that this is happening,” says Ocampo and O’Brien.
Now that the park is open, the two ladies are excited to see it bring the community together and for it to become a “hub.”
“We fought hard for this playground and the benefits to the community will be endless,” says O’Brien.
Amended on December 10, 2019 by Jacey Conway, Federation of Calgary Communities.