Partnership makes play possible

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By Traci Chapman

Hundreds of people turned out on a sunny Saturday afternoon to make a new playground for children at the county shelter a reality.

Devon Energy partnered with KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit agency dedicated to helping children, to fund the new playground, after the shelter’s old swing sets and slides were destroyed in the May 31, 2013, tornado. The shelter is staffed and run by Canadian County Youth and Family Services.

The project was a community-wide partnership as well, YFS executive director Dee Blose said.

 

“We had so many people who contributed their time, ideas and money, and then there were the kids and their feedback,” Blose said. “It’s been a wonderful experience.”

The experience began with destruction, as the May 31 tornado not only destroyed the shelter’s playground, but also severely damaged the organization’s roof. Several areas of the building were impacted by water damage caused by storms that followed in the tornado’s aftermath and even now employees are scattered in temporary housing, as repairs continue on the complex, Blose said.

“It’s been a wild ride,” she said.

Saturday was a testament to those employees who have spent almost a year in limbo, Blose said. Several joined Devon employees in a force totaling more than 200 people, all coming together to build the new playground. From assembling the pieces to painting concrete and putting together walkways – and a myriad of other tasks – the project came to life “like a dream,” the director said.

“It’s been something we’ve been working on for a while and we’re so, so grateful to have had so much help and interest in getting it done,” Blose said. “Our kids will just love it.”

Devon pledged more than $2.5 million in relief after last year’s May tornadoes swept through Moore, El Reno and other areas of the state. KaBOOM! then stepped in on the partnership, helping to develop the shelter as a recipient of the partnership’s funds, Blose said. The shelter is the place where children and youth are taken after their parents or guardians are cited for abuse or neglect or for other reasons that make their home an unsafe place.

YFS serves Canadian, Kingfisher, Oklahoma and Blaine counties, although a slight majority – 55 percent – of its services are rendered to local children, Blose said. In addition to the shelter, YFS administers foster care, homeless programs, community counseling, maternity services, transitional living services, youth workforce investment programs and more, she said.

“We try to make ourselves available to help any of our children or youth who are in need of us,” Blose said.

Among those are the children and youth who come to the shelter after leaving their homes under traumatic conditions, at best, the director said. While they have caring shoulders to lean on and a safe place to rest their head, things like the playground help them to do what all children need – play and spend time outdoors.

“For a lot of children something like this might not seem like a big deal because they’ve never not had something this basic,” Blose said. “But it’s a very big deal not only to our kids, but also to all of us who care so much about them.”