Children lend talents to playground design

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By Traci Chapman

A new playground at Youth and Family Services’ shelter is a step closer after area children leant their voices and ideas to the project.

Community members braved the cold last week to take part in the design session, which will result in an April 12 construction of equipment to replace the playground destroyed by last year’s May 31 tornado, YFS executive director Dee Blose said. It was through residents’ generosity, as well as a partnership with an Oklahoma energy company and KaBOOM!, that allowed the project to move forward, she said.

“We’ve been so blessed with everyone’s generosity and help,” Blose said. “We’ve been overwhelmed at the support we’ve received.”

Isaiah and Tasha Salinas (Photo/courtesy)

Isaiah and Tasha Salinas (Photo/courtesy)

Devon Energy worked with KaBOOM!, a national non-profit agency dedicated to helping children have access to activities that make their lives better, Blose said. Representatives from the organization assessed hard-hit areas throughout Oklahoma after the May 31 storm and selected YFS as a candidate for assistance. KaBOOM! Then partnered with Devon, which had pledged $2.5 million for tornado relief programs throughout the state.

“We will have more than 200 volunteers out here to construct the playground equipment this spring,” Blose said. “It’s an exciting undertaking.”

Along with KaBOOM! Organizers and YFS employees, Devon employees and other volunteers will gather April 12 to build the playground, Blose said.

Youth and Family Services works in Canadian, Blaine, Kingfisher and Oklahoma counties, Blose said. Of those areas, 55 percent of services are rendered to people in Canadian County, she said.

The 10 programs offered by the agency include the children and youth emergency shelter; foster care; transitional living services; youth and child homeless programs; community counseling; youth workforce investment programs; Smart Start; maternity services; Bee’s Knees, an art program for young adults with special needs; and The Spot, a meeting place for youth highlighting health and wellness in Watonga. Of Youth and Family Service’s roughly $2 million annual budget, the vast majority funds the emergency shelter and transitional/homeless programs – which comprise 23 percent and 29 percent of the agency’s total expenditures, respectively, Blose said.

While the shelter is only part of what YFS does, being able to move forward with something important to those children goes a long way toward healing after the storm, Blose said.

“When a child comes into the shelter it’s a traumatic experience for them, and it may seem small but being able to go outside, to play and to run, can be very therapeutic,” she said. “For the children to have been a part of designing this is very gratifying.”

“A playground is more than a playground – it helps these children get out and move, get exercise, make friends, have clarity,” she said. “This is much more than what it might seem on the surface, and we are so lucky to have this opportunity.”

To volunteer or learn more information, contact John Schneider at john.schneider@yfsok.org or (405) 262-6555.

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