The rebirth of St. Anselm’s playground

L-R: Principal Donato DiPaolo with committee members Michelle Raino, Tom Teahen, Chris Burkett and Nicole Watts.
L-R: Principal Donato DiPaolo with committee members Michelle Raino, Tom Teahen, Chris Burkett and Nicole Watts.

“Experts on children agree that they need safe, functional play areas since outdoor activity plays a vital role not only in their physical development, but in their social and cognitive development as well.”

So said Chris Burkett, one of the co-chairs of the St. Anselm Playground Revitalization Committee, at a community meeting held on Feb. 27 to launch an ambitious fundraising campaign and present designs to create a rejuvenated playground.

The revitalization is necessary because the current playground has very little green space, the play structures are outdated, and the asphalt is cracked and uneven – a hazardous situation resulting in several accidents.

Since this parent committee was formed in October 2015, they have liaised with the Toronto Catholic District School Board to obtain approval for the project and to develop a plan after gaining input from the students, staff, parents and parish through a series of surveys.

Proposed plans for the new playground, model structures and examples of possible play sets from SerdiKa Landscape Design.
Proposed plans for the new playground, model structures and examples of possible play sets from SerdiKa Landscape Design.

While the TCDSB appreciates the need for an improved playground, their renewal funding is required to keep the school buildings themselves in a good state of repair. The board is, however, very engaged in the project as it is in charge of obtaining proposals for the design and construction and has committed to the maintenance of the new playground.

After raising $30,000 to cover the first stage of the project, the committee received submissions from six firms and chose SerdiKa Consulting, which worked on a similar project at Blessed Sacrament School. Architect Zori Petrova presented her proposed layout and several options for play structures at the meeting. Once completed, the rejuvenated playground will include a number of new features: a soft-surface turfed play area, new play structure, outdoor teaching space with benches, designated basketball courts and games areas, as well as green and shaded areas — all designed to meet the recreational needs of the students, Leaside Daycare, which also uses the space, and the wider community.Proposed plans for the new playground, model structures and examples of possible play sets from SerdiKa Landscape Design.

The Revitalization Committee currently comprises co-chairs Chris Burkett and Tom Teahen, Michelle Raino and Nicole Watts, who are spearheading the fundraising efforts, and other members, Ariel Burkett, Cathy Ferguson, Mark Palmer and Andrei Sherwin. Their goal is to raise $300,000 by March 2019 so that construction can be completed during the summer months.

They are seeking both corporate and individual donors, and are encouraging families to consider ECHOAGE birthday parties featuring donations rather than gifts, with St. Anselm as the charity of choice at echoage.com. There will be donor recognition opportunities including plaque placement and a donor wall. More information is available at www.youcaring.com/stanselm.

Proposed plans for the new playground, model structures and examples of possible play sets from SerdiKa Landscape Design.
Proposed plans for the new playground, model structures and examples of possible play sets from SerdiKa Landscape Design.

A number of fundraising events have already attracted donations, with more events planned. To learn more, contact Michelle Raino at mraino@gmail.com.

About Janis Fertuck 41 Articles
Janis Fertuck is a retired English teacher who spent the last 30 years of her career at Leaside High School. She enjoys writing about the vibrant Leaside community where she and her husband have lived for 22 years. Her other favourite pursuits include a part-time job at a boutique on Bayview and volunteering with the Bayview Pixies.