A new way to play in Donalda

Students, staff and supporters celebrate new school playground

By all accounts, the new playground at Donalda School is a big hit with students — especially after they spent an entire school year without one.

Principal Mark Siemens said the new equipment has been popular right from the get go, although he recalled how a few children “spun themselves sick” on the spinning cone.

For the most part, he said, it’s been a positive experience for himself — a new arrival at the school — and for the students.

“I’ve got to enjoy the benefits of seeing our students, with big smiles on their faces, using the equipment,” he said, speaking at a celebration ceremony at the school on Friday, Sept. 26.

Directing his comments to the committee responsible for the playground, he said, “We just really appreciate all the work that you’ve done.”

The school served a lunch on Friday to celebrate the new facility and to show its appreciation to the sponsors, partners and volunteers who helped make it happen.

Shauna Wilkie, a member of the playground committee, said fundraising began in early 2013 after it was recognized that the school’s existing playground needed to be replaced.

The old playground, installed in the late 1980s, failed a safety inspection and was removed in May of that year, with only the swing sets left behind.

Wilkie said the parents council organized several initiatives to raise the money for the new playground, including bottle drives, chocolate bar sales, a Ladies’ Night Out and other events.

Alison Norman, who is chair of the parents council and also served on the playground committee, said these fundraisers collected around $50,000 for the project.

The final cost for the playground was around $110,000. Equipment was installed by a team of volunteers on Aug. 15 and 16, while a double arch swing was yet to arrive as of Friday.

Major partners for the project included the County of Stettler, TransCanada PipeLines and Alberta Culture’s Community Facility Enhancement Program.

The school also dedicated one of its inside walls to the “Roots and Branches” mural, painted by Linda Kneeland and depicting a tree. Alumni, staff and supporters could purchase leaves to support the playground, while donors were recognized as the underground roots.

To show their thanks, students clapped and yelled “thank you” to the volunteers and supporters present at Friday’s celebration. Burgers, hot dogs and veggies were served for lunch, while ice cream cones were offered for dessert.