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Devlin shows ‘heart’ in playground project

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It’s out there. It’s all around us. It’s not something we can easily put a finger on but it’s there just the same.

What is it? “It” is that feeling of community, that sense of spirit, that open neighbourliness that gives a place heart. And sometimes you’ll find the biggest heart in the smallest places.

Take Devlin, for example. A small, quiet community with a population not much more than 1,000, located halfway between Emo and Fort Frances. We’re tied to both of those towns in many ways—employment, shopping, where our children attend high school, or skate, or swim. People here support many programs in those other communities, such as the Emo-La Vallee Arena, “Ice for Kids,” the Rainy River Agricultural Fair, and the auditorium.

But this community pulls together and supports local projects, too. Maybe more than even we realize.

The most recent project is the new playground at Crossroads School. The school itself opened a year ago but has been “in the works” since the mid-1980s. When planning actually started, residents were hopeful a state-of-the-art facility was going to happen here.

And it did. Crossroads School is a beautiful building. Quality education is provided for more than 250 local children by a staff of 12 full-time teachers, two half-time teachers, a principal, and 11 support staff.

Community groups already are taking advantage of using this facility for evening functions. This is a great place to call the centre of our community.

But infrastructure dollars just don’t include playgrounds. And in a community where most kids can’t walk home for lunch, something has to be in place for them. Fortunately, in 1988, Leonard LaRocque, then principal of Burriss-Cornerbrook Schools, had the foresight to start planning for the future.

Each year, money was earmarked from student fundraising projects for the new school playground. Then in December of ’91, a small group of parents got together and decided it was time to get organized—time to really provide for the children of this community.

“Playground Parents” was launched, with Trudy Badiuk, Tracy Hyatt and Diane Bonot at the helm. Their primary goal, of course, was to raise money for a playground but the route they took was of service to the children of this community.

With the help of countless volunteers, a hot lunch program was provided to students at both Burriss and Cornerbrook schools, then Crossroads School, twice weekly. “Playground Parents” also ran bingos and organized fundraisers.

And at last, back in June, they were able to make a donation of $22,500 to the playground fund started by LaRocque. The playground committee was able to order Phase 1 of the new equipment at a cost of $40,000. Not bad for a little dot on the map called Devlin.

But the story doesn’t end there.

The “playground” in June was still the same hayfield it had been for countless years. So LaRocque called on the expertise of local Reeve Ken McKinnon for assistance with planning the landscaping, and things began to snowball.

Soon, equipment, time, materials, and labour were being donated by local contractors, Tim Mutz of Mutz Bros. and Heikki Lampi, and by the Municipality of La Vallee. Fields were plowed and levelled, then seeded. Ditching was done. Sand and gravel was supplied. Mark LaFleur built and assembled basketball equipment.

Parents, kids and community members then came out and worked together to build the retaining boxes for the sand around the equipment. Under the direction of Ross Donaldson, equipment was assembled and installed.

Phase 1 was completed Sept. 14 at a total cost of $47,600. If you swing by the school at lunch hour or recess, you’ll see how the kids feel about their playground, They love it!

Of course, the story still isn’t over. Phase II is the next goal, with some $20,000 still to raise. It may take a bit of time but this community has proven over and over again that it supports the efforts made by its members.

Congratulations, Devlin. You’ve got heart!

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