Torquay Elementary wins $100,000 for new playground after online vote

 

Students at Torquay Elementary can look forward to a $100,000 boost to their school playground after a winning performance in an online vote run by the B.C. Automobile Association.

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The Lillooet Recreation, Education and Cultural Centre is also receiving $100,000 after organizers decided a double winner was appropriate because the province-wide contest was so close. The announcement was made Monday.

The Torquay community decided to take part after the school’s wooden play structure was deemed unsafe and removed in December 2015. Over 300,000 votes were cast in June for five applicants taking part in the BCAA Play Here initiative, a number that had been pared down from over 500 hopefuls.

BCAA community manager Shawn Pettipas said it was a tight race from the outset.

“Right from Day 1 of voting, Lillooet rec centre and Torquay Elementary, they really brought their communities together and they really just flew out way ahead and they were neck-and-neck the entire time — sometimes swapping leads two, three times in the same day.”

Torquay ended with 129,759 votes, just behind Lillooet at 131,397.

“In the spirit of having as much impact on communities as possible and supporting kids, we just felt that the communities worked so hard that we absolutely had to support both,” Pettipas said.

BCAA Play Here also added $20,000 donations to three other sites involved in the vote, bringing the overall total to $260,000.

“We only ever said we were going to give away a single revitalization worth up to $100,000,” Pettipas said.

Parent Jennifer Hodi, who has a son going into Grade 3 at Torquay, said many people in the school community were involved in the effort to get a new playground.

“I feel content and gratified,” she said, adding that she is happy Lillooet also won.

Hodi said she was emotional when she heard the result for Torquay.

“I started crying.”

The loss of the old playground left an empty space at the school, Hodi said.

“We were left with a big square pile of wood chips,” she said. “The kids ran around and played tag and stuff, but it’s nice to have the opportunity to put in something fantastic there.

“We really want to talk about the future and what’s best for accessibility — what’s best for the future of the school, not just for the group that we have right now.”

The planning process for the new facilities will begin soon, Pettipas said.

“We should know more in the next couple of weeks on the scope and how long this will take,” Pettipas said. “We’ll be there with the communities every step of the way.”

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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