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W.G. Murdoch play structure fundraiser hits speed bump

Fundraising for an inclusive play structure that was scheduled to be installed last fall at W.G. Murdoch School in Crossfield has hit a snag due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fundraising for an inclusive play structure that was scheduled to be installed last fall at W.G. Murdoch School in Crossfield has hit a snag due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Tracey Oldale, chairperson with Friends of W.G. Murdoch, many fundraising events that would have helped the cause were put on hold in 2020.

“A lot of grant applications, fundraising activities that were in the works got cancelled,” she said. “We were coming up to a casino event that was going to help fundraising, [and] that has been postponed.”

Oldale said there were grants that were assigned to the project, but due to expiration of deadlines and not reaching the fundraising goals necessary, those have also been postponed.

“It has really put us behind where we thought we would be,” she said. “We were slated for installation a couple of months ago.”

The delay has been disappointing, according to Oldale, as an inclusive play structure would hold much community value in Crossfield.

“Having the kids involved with the process of it, it has been a cool project to be a part of,” she said.

In the last year, Friends of W.G. Murdoch raised around $30,000 of the $164,000 needed to construct the play structure. Oldale said the initial quote for the play structure expired, meaning costs have risen. According to Oldale, it has resulted in an extra $2,000 required.

The playground is designed to be inclusive, meaning it would be accessible by all students, including those with alternative needs..

“What we were hoping for, we haven’t been able to achieve,” Oldale said. “We haven’t given up, it’s just a longer process than we anticipated. Playgrounds aren’t cheap.”

To try and regain the fundraising momentum the project enjoyed prior to the pandemic, the efforts have moved online. Interested donors can find out more about the project and donate by visiting bit.ly/35g9O1i.

Oldale said there are some positives with moving the fundraising effort online.

“It doesn’t have to be local – you can reach distant families, nationwide and worldwide to try and get more support,” she said.

Despite those benefits, to date, the online fundraiser has only raised $150 of the $140,000 goal.

“It has been a slow start,” Oldale said.

“With this project, we want kids to be kids again. In this day and age, it’s important for kids to put the phone away, go outside and play.”

W.G. Murdoch School principal Derek Keenan said he feels positive about the fundraising efforts to date, although he acknowledged there is still a lot to be done.

“We are not yet in striking distance in terms of having the project complete, but I am optimistic,” he said. “We were supposed to break ground in September [2020]. With the pandemic, we couldn’t.”

Keenan said over the next few months, the fundraising group is hoping to hit the ground running so the park can be installed by the start of the next school year.

“We really try to honour the fact that we have needs for kids from Grade 6 to Grade 12 and their needs are different,” he said. “This fills a very specific need and niche that is an important piece I think we are lacking.”

Jordan Stricker, AirdrieToday.com
Follow me on Twitter @Jay_Strickz