Halle's getting her playground wish
City council ponies up $60k grant to cover last of fundraising goal
By: Scott Hayes
| Posted: Wednesday, Aug 14, 2013 06:00 am
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Some fundraising committees spend years toiling with bingos and bottle drives to put together enough cash to rebuild aging and unsafe school playgrounds.
Not so for Halle’s Playground Wish, the committee set up to pull together $182,000 to redo the playground at J.J. Nearing Catholic Elementary School. Last month, city council unanimously passed a grant recommendation from the community services advisory board to pony up a $60,000 grant from the Community Capital Grant program.
That gift topped up the fundraising to its goal, all in just a matter of months. For that, the organizers are very, very thankful.
“That was the last piece of our puzzle,” stated Jennifer Doucette-Giordano, the chair of the committee. “We were going to have a big hole in the playground if we didn’t get that grant. It actually has given us the opportunity to purchase a very large piece that Halle had liked.”
Halle is Halle Popowich, the young St. Albert girl who has seen as many ups and downs over these last 12 months as one might expect to have on a teeter-totter.
In June of 2012 she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a rare cancer of the bone marrow and blood. Doctors gave her a five to 20 per cent chance of survival without a bone marrow transplant. Her family pleaded for the public to register as bone marrow donors. More than 600 people across the province responded to the call, adding themselves to the OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network.
A match was confirmed in mid-October. The transplant took place early the next month at the Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary. After she was released, she stayed with her parents at the local Ronald McDonald House while she received further treatment.
In addition to a return to health, Halle wanted a new playground to play in when she got better. The Children's Wish Foundation granted her a new piece of playground equipment, a rope-webbed merry-go-round called a Pyramid, for her school.
In April of this year, Doucette-Giordano set up the Halle’s Playground Wish page on Facebook, with a goal of replacing the entire playground with new equipment.
The effort landed support from high school groups to customers and management at Save-On Foods locations in St. Albert, Sherwood Park and Edmonton. People could donate directly to the cause through the school’s website. Several contractors and suppliers even signed up to donate equipment and time for the installation. All of the pieces were picked by Halle and the Popowich family.
When it’s all completed, the Playworks playground will include rock-climbing pillars with a net in-between, triple-arch swings, some spinning pieces, and other balancing toys. Halle is now in remission but that hasn’t slowed efforts to finish this project as soon as possible. The expected date for the official re-opening is Aug. 29, just in time for the back to school barbecue and meet-the-teacher night.
Until then, Doucette-Giordano is at least breathing a sigh of relief that she can stop asking for donations.
“It’s kind of a little miracle in itself. People are just in awe because it takes a minimum of 18 months to five years to fund and build a playground. Ours has pretty much come together in just over four months. We’re feeling pretty blessed. It’s overwhelming some days. It’s exciting!”
She offered a big thank you to the community and to city council for all the support in helping the committee achieve its goal in such short order. She added that the Popowichs themselves are also very grateful. The family was unavailable for direct comment.
“They were really touched at the amount that the community has stepped forward and all of the love and support that they received,” Doucette-Giordano said.