After only about a year and a half of fundraising, Kate’s Kause is nearly ready to break ground on a universally accessible playground in Elmira. On Wednesday morning it was revealed that Kelly and Jeremy Meissner were winners of $60,000 in the Aviva Community Fund competition as part of a $1 million giveaway to 12 community projects across the country, funded by Aviva Insurance. Altogether, Kate’s Kause has raised $265,000 for the playground.
“I think we can do an awesome and unique park with that money,” said Kelly on Wednesday evening in her Elmira home.
Meissner’s daughter Kate was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome back in 2010. People with AS typically have little or no verbal skills, possible seizures and sleep disorders, and poor gross and fine motor skills.
Together the couple started Kate’s Kause in October 2010 to raise funds to build a playground their daughter and other kids with physical challenges could use to help them develop like a normal child through play and interaction with other children.
The competition was unique in that the public had the chance to vote on their favourite projects, of which there were nearly 2,000 submitted for consideration in three categories: small projects (valued at up to $50,000), medium projects ($50,000 to $100,000) and large projects ($100,000 to $150,000).
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The first round of voting took place from Sept. 26 to Nov. 30. From that, 90 semifinalists were chosen to advance to the next round of voting from Dec. 5-16.
The numbers were again reduced to 30 – 10 in each category – and a panel of 10 judges selected the winners.
“It’s a little shocking,” said Kelly of finally reaching their fundraising goal of $250,000. “It’s overwhelming to be this far, we thought it would take us five years.”
Kelly said it was the support of her friends, family and the people of Elmira who helped put them over the top so quickly, and it was also thanks to the votes of students at Bluevale Collegiate Institute where the Meissners teach, as well as Elmira District Secondary School, Waterloo Collegiate, Grand River Collegiate, Glenview Park, and Eastwood Collegiate.
Now comes the task of trying to locate a suitable site for the playground. One proposal was to place it next to the Woolwich Memorial Centre near Lions Hall, but Kelly is concerned about the lack of shade. She said that they have scheduled a meeting with township staff next week to work through that, and to bring it to council for final approval. Ideally the construction would begin April 1, weather permitting, and it should be complete within six to eight weeks – well in time for summer. For the Meissner family, the timing couldn’t be better.
“Kate’s development is really progressing, and she is at the right level of development to really benefit from this structure,” said Kelly.
“It’ll take a while for this all to sink in.”