Three days, six local kids, 635 tons of sand and countless volunteer hours have combined to transform the dangerous and decrepit playground at the Hawkesville Community Centre into an area that should put the village of 250 people on the map for years to come.
The playground is one of 13 in the province to undergo a thematic renovation for Sinking Ship’s Giver program, which will air on TV Ontario later this year. Other builds have occurred in Hamilton,
Guelph and Fergus, among others.
“It’s amazing. Monday morning this place was terrible and now it’s beautiful,” said Brad Voisin, the director of facilities for the Township of Wellesley and the man who first contacted Sinking Ship for inclusion in the Giver program.
“The playground equipment here was very old and had to be removed, it was inspected in the spring by a professional and everything but one piece failed.”
Six local kids – Ben Rupert, Brooke Bauer, Kyle Kraemer, Marissa Rupert, Cole Martin and Safaye Borutskie – were selected to help design the site and have their say on how the new playground should look and feel for their community.
To that end there is a brand-new climbing pyramid, a fort in the shape of a castle, a volleyball court, new swings and a mural painted on the side of the community centre – all under the theme of building Canada’s largest sandbox.
“The thing that we love about working with kids is that their ideas are always so unpredictable,” said show director and creator J.J. Johnson, an Elmira native.
“It’s neat that they wanted to build Canada’s largest sandbox, and that was motivated by wanting to get Hawkesville on the map.”
With an initial investment of only $10,000, Johnson said that the success of the program really relies on the volunteer and in-kind donations of materials from the local community – something Hawkesville provided in spades. Local companies including Frey Building Contractors and Way-Mar Inc. readily donated more than enough supplies and workers to the cause.
“This is our ninth build now, and truthfully we’ve had some great inter-city builds but we’ve never had this much support,” the director said of the small town effort he has witnessed in Hawkesville.
“It’s neat to see what you can accomplish when you have a volunteer force of 60 or 70 people.”
Not only was it a fun activity for the six kids involved, but they had the opportunity to work with their hands and learn some new skills along the way as well.
“It’s been really fun. I met a lot of new people and I learned a lot about painting and building,” said Borutskie of her time on the show, a feeling echoed by her other young co-hosts.
“It’s been very fun and I really liked being on TV,” laughed Kraemer.
For those working on the set as part of the show, the children turned out to be a critical element to designing and building such an elaborate and creative play area that will be used by them and their peers for years to come.
“The young kids are great because they bring the creativity that all the adults sometimes forget is necessary for these kinds of things,” said Michael Lagimodiere, a contractor from Toronto who is also the show’s host and main site designer.
“We started them with the ‘what would you like’ questions and then we went from there. It’s been a wonderful experience”.