The kids at Torquay Elementary should have one heck of a playground coming their way.
Announced Monday, the Gordon Head school won $100,000 from the BCAA Play Here contest, a month-long competition that sought community votes, with the grand prize being six figures toward new playground equipment.
While one $100,000 prize was initially up for grabs, both Torquay Elementary and the Lillooet Rec Centre – who traded the lead in the competition over the month of June – will be receiving $100,000 for their playgrounds.
“Since the beginning of the voting period, Torquay Elementary and Lillooet Rec Centre were neck and neck and miles ahead of the other finalists,” said Shawn Pettipas, manager of community impact with BCAA. “By the end of the vote count, they each had in excess of 125,000 votes each – it just really showed how these communities came together to impact the children.
“We thought it only fair to award two first place prizes of the $100,000 revitalizations. We’re thrilled to be able to do that.”
“We’re so excited,” added Jasmine Haere, a parent at Torquay Elementary. “It’s just the best outcome – it would’ve been really sad if we’d won and Lillooet hadn’t. It was so close.”
Last year, Torquay’s playground was torn down, leaving the students with just woodchips and rubber tires to play with during recess. While the school PAC had raised about $27,000 over the last few years for new playground equipment, they were still short of the approximately $60,000 it costs for a basic playground.
The $100,000 is a tremendous boost, said Haere, and may allow them to build a bigger and better playground than they had imagined. While Haere is currently on vacation, she said the reaction at the school when it was announced was ecstatic.
“Everyone was cheering. I heard the energy there was just amazing and I could feel it, and I’m in Kelowna,” she said with a laugh.
“There were a lot of teary parents. It’s been a long month and it just feels so good that we did this for Saanich kids.”
In addition, the remaining finalists – General Brock Elementary in Vancouver, Windsor Elementary in Burnaby and the community of Crawford Bay – will each receive $20,000 toward their own playgrounds.
Haere thanked the community for putting its support behind Torquay Elementary, emphasizing how great it is that the school – as well as Lillooet – will be getting brand new playgrounds.
“It’s just a double joy that everybody seems to have won,” said Haere. “At the end of the day, if there was a loser, it would be the kids and we don’t want any kids to miss out.
“It’s the power of having a vision and believing in it and seeing it come to life.”