By Dan Walton

Pioneer Staff

Equal opportunity should be no concern for any child, including on the playground.

Students and staff from Eileen Madson Primary School in Invermere agree, and theyve put strong efforts into the purchase of an accessible playground for the school yard.

A Grade 3 student hosted a birthday party and asked for donations instead of gifts, Principal Lisa Tenta told The Pioneer. She contributed the donations towards an accessible swing for the schools playground. From there she suggested that we do more fundraising to have more accessible equipment.

Mrs. Tenta said the Grade 3 students charity had a snowballing effect two other students decided to host a similarly themed birthday. Between the three generous primary students, $900 was donated toward the accessible playground.

And that put me on the lead to the Panorama Foundation, she said, explaining that a presentation of hers assisted the schools efforts by $30,000.

Kootenay Savings also donated $1,270 toward the playground when they caught wind of the birthday party donations, Mrs. Tenta explained.

The Badgers hockey team also contributed $226. An additional $25,000 in funding came from the Ministry of Education School Playground Equipment Upgrade, and $8,750 in support from the School Community Connections Grant.

With a heap of generosity from throughout the local and provincial community, the school was in a healthy purchasing position.

The surfacing is one of the biggest expenses, and its a rubber rebound surface, so that a child in a wheelchair can actually maneuver around the playground, Mrs. Tenta said. Right now we have peat gravel in our main playground.

She said the equipment has been purchased, and the school board will be installing it this summer. The exact location is still being determined by maintenance staff, as they figure out the most practical layout for the new playground.

And once the equipment is constructed, all children will be able to use it any time of day, including weekends and after school.

Its important for all children to feel included in play, and having social connections with their peers, and to also feel that sense of independence, Mrs Tenta said. Not just for our students, but for all children within our valley.

The playground will feature an accessible swing; a suspended giant rubber saucer. There will also be something called a Tippy Canoe, a rocking canoe-themed platform accessible through ramping systems.

Eileen Madson Primary really is a community playground, she said. Its attached to the school, but its constantly being used by community members.