Q&A with Parents for Parks: How to Make Your Playground a Reality
- Can you share a few details about what inspired you to create Parents for Parks?
As parents who value time in the outdoors, exercise, and togetherness, we saw a need for new and improved playground equipment in our town. We have beautiful green space and parks in our rural community, and we saw an opportunity for improvement. Instead of standing around talking about it, we decided to take action.
- Why did you choose to work with our team at ABC Recreation?
Our first step in the process was to critically look at existing playground equipment in our community. Then we started visiting playgrounds in surrounding communities. We kept record of equipment companies, had many conversations with other families and started requesting catalogues. We knew we wanted something different than what was already in Petrolia, and Landscape Structures stuck out to us as interesting and attractive equipment. We were very encouraged by the customer service provided from the initial email communication and ABC’s willingness to draft up plans as per our specifics.
- How did you establish your budget and fundraising goal?
We want this park to be a welcoming place for all people to gather, play and enjoy the outdoors. With that goal in mind, we wanted to make it as accessible and diverse as possible. We scrolled the catalogue and planned out what the ideal park would look like for us (equipment for varying ages and abilities, walking path, pavilion etc.). We had ABC draft the plans and our total was around $250,000 so that is where we started. Of course, those plans evolved over time as new pieces became available.
- What fundraising initiatives were most successful for your group?
When people hear “Parents for Parks” they tend to assume we are a bigger group of people, akin to a service club, when in reality we are four individuals with supportive families. We knew we were going to need the support and “buy-in” of our larger community. Initially the Lions Club of Petrolia, as the original sponsors of Greenwood Park, pledged $40,000 to give us a starting off point. Through this partnership we started our first two fundraising events — a Valentines Day Tea Party and a t-shirt campaign. We gained momentum on Facebook and spread the word about the Parents for Parks. We also wanted any and every opportunity to talk about the project and pitched the concept to local service clubs and businesses. Every dollar donated gave us clout and progress for the next donation. Our “community-centred” fundraising efforts didn’t always generate huge dollar amounts, but rather created connections and publicity for the next partnership or donation. It was definitely a “snowball” approach. After reaching $200,000 raised, we received significant support from The Town of Petrolia and a private donor to bring the project to fruition and get us to the $300,000 goal.
- How did you promote your cause and gain traction within your community?
We gained traction and promoted our cause in the community by word of mouth, like conversations in the produce section of the grocery store, casual chats with strangers at parks and through Facebook and Instagram.
- Any tips for other community groups hoping to start a similar project?
My first advice to anyone wanting to take on a similar project is to surround yourself with friends. That way, you’re clocking your social time and work time together. Once you have a core group of invested people, you need to make sure you are filling a gap or meeting a need in your community. Create a strong vision and continue to revisit and go back to that vision. For us it was “To provide an exceptional park that is inclusive to all.”
- What does inclusive play mean to you?
Inclusive play on this project means everyone, regardless of age, ability, socio-economic status, are welcome here. We have tried to implement a “something for everyone” approach. Of course, in order to achieve this, we had to do some research. We consulted a wide range of individuals, families, children, parents, and grandparents to hear what they would love to see in our community park. These consults lead us to some ideas we hadn’t considered like ramps, the basketball game, sensory panels and raised garden boxes.