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Building community in Balfour

It was all smiles and thumbs up this past weekend at the Balfour Golf Course clubhouse where they celebrated a playground grant with cake and brainstorming over ideas on how to proceed into the spring. - submitted photo
It was all smiles and thumbs up this past weekend at the Balfour Golf Course clubhouse where they celebrated a playground grant with cake and brainstorming over ideas on how to proceed into the spring.
— image credit: submitted photo

For kids in Balfour the reward is twofold: a new playground on the way, and what it looks like is up to them.

The village is one of 40 communities across the country getting playground design and fundraising help from nonprofit Let Kids Be Kids. In addition to engineering advice, it will also receive a grant equal to the amount of money it raises for the project.

“Originally it started that we were looking for ways to build our community. Not necessarily physically, but to have that sense of community,” says Erin Fitchett, a director on Balfour’s recreation commission.

As she was looking for ways to bring the village together, Fitchett says something else came to her attention. Balfour was badly in need of a new play space.

“Right now at the old school house we have some very old, run down stuff from years past,” she says. “I even question sometimes the safety on it. But there isn’t, basically, a place to play.”

Let Them Be Kids, an Ontario-based volunteer organization, has been building community playgrounds for more than a decade through its Helping Hands Awards. In addition to getting playgrounds built, the group also encourages community building — literally. Balfour’s play space will be built mainly by local volunteers.

“They send an engineer out, but our community will be out,” says Fitchett. “It’ll be like 200 people actually physically doing the work, so it creates ownership in the community as well.”

The build will take place on May 28, at the school house on Upper Balfour Road. But before it can take place, the community has to raise at least $20,000 (Fitchett thinks they’ll be able to come up with more) and decide on its preferred combination of swings, slides and other equipment.

Designing begins Saturday, January 29 at 4 p.m. at the Balfour Golf Club, and Fitchett says she’s encouraging as many children as possible to attend.

Since news about the playground broke, Fitchett says people have been “coming out of the woodwork” to offer support, donations and volunteer help.

“People have been wanting this, it’s just no one’s been heading anything up,” she says. “It’s interesting to find out how many people truly wanted it once the announcement was made.”

To register as a volunteer for the playground build and receive updates on fundraising efforts, visit ltbk.ca and register as a member. The recreation commission is also blogging about the project at ltbkbalfour.blogspot.com.

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