The reaction from Kiwanis Club of Nipissing President Liam Sangster said it all, Thursday, as the club welcomed and thanked all who played a part in making the Kiwanis Playworld a reality at a ribbon-cutting event in Lee Park.
A beaming Sangster noted, "You don't ever think it's going to come together but we have to thank the City and the donors," as well as Kiwanis members who all worked together. "The members of our community are shocked to see that our small city has such a great structure. It's quite large and quite innovative. We are so proud."
Included in the ceremony — and inclusion was the buzzword frequently used by master of ceremonies Ralph Celentano — was Joshua Selin, a young man with mobility challenges who gleefully explored the playground structure and took part in the ceremony alongside representatives of the Stockfish and Thomson families, who made donations of $10,000 each toward the project.
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The previous playground equipment did not meet the needs of all children, and to its credit, the Kiwanis Club took action. Many years and many funds raised later, Kiwanis can proudly unveil its Playworld, accessible and inclusive to all.
"We wanted to make the structure conform to the children," offers Sangster. "One of the big issues with children with disabilities is they cannot associate with their friends and other children because the structure wasn't built for them. Our goal is to let kids be kids."
Organizations such as Autism Ontario, HANDS The Family Help Network, and One Kids Place were tasked with helping the City and Kiwanis Club make the space inclusive.
In addition to sliders and spinners, there is a swing set built to accommodate challenged children. The playground also features gliders and sliders that kids with mobility challenges can get on themselves and ride without a wheelchair.
This initiative is part of an ongoing partnership with the City of North Bay that began with the Kiwanis Club of North Bay back in the early 1970s and has evolved into a collaboration with the Kiwanis Club of Nipissing — a partnership approaching 50 years of park support and development.
The key financial components of the revitalization project were the $ 280,000 for the children's play structure, $178,000 for the rubberized safety play surface, and approximately $75,000 toward the multi-generational outdoor fitness equipment. Asphalt pathways have been included to improve accessibility for mobility walkers and wheelchairs.
Last October, Kiwanis Past President Caleb O’Connor presented the City with the club's commitment of $63,000 for the project.
Celentano adds the finished playground is a testament to the dedicated work of the Kiwanis Club members, past and present, who have been involved in bringing the Kiwanis Playworld to fruition.