Brant builds a playground

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Volunteers move gravel around new playground equipment at Brant Christian School

Despite the devastating flooding that affected staff and many families whose children attend Brant Christian School, volunteers managed to build a new playground on schedule Saturday.

More than 100 volunteers, many of them forced from their homes by flood waters in High River, were on the site Saturday shovelling gravel, planting trees and building climbing equipment.

The faith-based alternative program in the hamlet of Brant had been fundraising and planning for the new playground for more than a year. They had no idea their build day, June 22, would fall within hours of the worst flooding in Alberta’s history.

“We are absolutely amazed, with all the destruction and mayhem that’s happened in southern Alberta, in particular High River, we have over 120 people here today,” said Principal Rob Cowie. “There are people here today who don’t have a home to go home to this evening . . . They have been left in tears in many ways with not knowing what tomorrow is going to bring.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty. There’s a lot of trepidation. There’s just fear and unknown in the group and here they are today, giving to their school, giving to their children, giving to the Kingdom. That’s pretty special. You can’t put a value on that.

“We have such a faithful community, they just rolled up their sleeves and said we’re going to do what it takes, we’re going to do this.”

The Brant Christian School Society devoted the entire proceeds from its annual auction to the playground project. The event raised $40,000 in a single evening.

The project also received a national award from the Let Them Be Kids Foundation, which matched every donation, dollar for dollar.

Cowie says the foundation provided expertise in playground development that proved invaluable to the school. The foundation supports about 30 projects a year, selected from hundreds of applications which flow in at a rate of 10 applications per day.

Something special clicked between the two organizations when Cowie submitted his online application.

“Within an hour I got a phone call from the chairman of the board of the Let Them Be Kids Foundation, Mr. Ian Hill,” Cowie said.

Following a process of conference calls and interviews, including meetings with some of the students, the project received the national award.

 “We’re thrilled, we’re excited and we’re blessed to be working with the Let Them Be Kids foundation.”

The school was created in the early 1990s, and at one point, had only 15 to 20 students. Today there’s more than 100 attending the school which infuses the academic program with faith.

The playground upgrade is a major development in the tiny community and is intended to be of benefit to the students and the broader community.

“The school gets used for things like weddings and anniversaries, various types of community get togethers,” Cowie said. “We’ve had people come back to us and say ‘You have a very special little place out there.’ ”

The playground was dedicated in the memory of Patricia Webber, who served as secretary of the society board for 10 years.

“She absolutely loved the school,” said Cathy Massey, the school secretary who knew Webber for about a decade. “She did everything she could to keep the school going.”

Massey said describe Webber as a bubbly and humble person whose death was a blow to the school community.