A Stegosaurus and Tyrannosaurus rex are coming to Rexdale.
Well, not an actual Stegosaurus and T.rex. Those real-life dinosaurs last walked the Earth during the late Jurassic and late Cretaceous periods, some 150-million and 65-million years ago, respectively.
This Stegosaurus is a green-and-yellow climber and the T.rex is a double slide in the newly opened T.rex playground in The Elms Park at the end of Bergamot Avenue east of Islington Avenue.
The dino-themed playground is the latest build of Giver, a TVOKids TV series that makes over 10 to 13 playgrounds across Ontario each season. The show profiles six kids, ages six to 12, who design, then work with community volunteers and show host Michael Lagimodiere, and in this case City of Toronto parks staff, to build a playground with a theme in three days.
Rennata Lopez, Giver’s producer, said the T-Rex playground will be the sixth episode of Giver’s third season airing next spring.
“The community has been gung-ho. It’s a good story and a good location,” Lopez said July 25 as she produced the on-site filming armed with a mic to communicate with her Giver colleagues.
“It’s kid-led from the (playground) concept to the ribbon-cutting,” Lopez said. “There is a lot of learning in the process. The kids are very attached to the playground; it’s theirs. We’re literally showing kids that they can make a difference.”
The not-yet-built playground was bustling with activity Friday as community and Tangerine volunteers got to work alongside the six chosen Giver kids and city parks employees operating heavy equipment, including a Bobcat and a bulldozer.
“It’s a good opportunity because there was nothing here to do other than listen to the annoying airplane noise,” said Shrithicka Vilvarajah, 9, who suggested the playground’s T-Rex-shaped slide.
Paul D’Agostino, 10, helped design the dinosaur running course. “It’s an amazing opportunity. There will be a pretty nice park right beside where I live.”
TVOKids is Hillary Pendenque’s favourite TV channel. “It’s a great opportunity for other kids to have a brand-new playground,” said the seven-year-old.
Giver production company, Toronto-based Sinking Ship Entertainment, joined forces with Tangerine Bank on the build an estimated value of $40,000. The community raised $2,000 toward the project, which also received a $5,000 donation from area Councillor Doug Ford.
Norfield Crescent resident Jean Woods is The Giver of the T.rex playground.
The Elms Parks boasted one newer slide alongside a decades-old slide and swing set that “hasn’t changed in 40 years,” Woods thought to herself four years ago when she would frequent the tired playground with her granddaughter, Erica, two, and her friend Elaine Santogrossi, and her grandson, Christian, then also two.
So the grandmother took action.
Woods connected with Bob Richardson, manager of the city’s parks, forestry and recreation division’s partnership development office. Richardson came to Woods’ home and advised her to gather neighbours’ signatures on a petition and approach big corporations for funding.
She did. They declined.
Woods formed The Friends of The Elms Park, a committee that also includes Santogrossi, Rita Mastrogiovanni, Elizabeth Gibson, Wendy Bhagoutie, Joseph McMackin, and Woods’ husband, Doug.
Undeterred, last summer after she saw playground improvements at Martingrove Gardens Park, she took up the gauntlet again. Woods reconnected with Richardson.
Doug Bennet, Richardson’s colleague and business development manager in the city parks partnership development unit, had another idea.
He approached Sinking Ship Entertainment, producer of Giver.
They were in.
“The city’s partnership development unit has grown with increasing interest on the part of community groups to advocate and fundraise for parks and recreation projects,” Bennet explained. “Our role at the unit is to be the matchmaker — to match funding organizations with community groups on (city) approved projects. Most of our work is done outside the regular city budget; work that is not budgeted for, but that is worthwhile.”
Earlier this year, Sinking Ship hosted a design day in the community that attracted more than 30 kids, who auditioned to be on the show.
“It has been a lot of fun and gratifying. The community has been awesome in its support,” Woods said in an interview. “It’s great for the neighbourhood; not only the Elms community, but kids who live in the nearby apartment buildings and townhouses. They need a place to play, too.”
At the playground build Friday, Woods watched as the six Giver kids donned their yellow hard hats and tool belts to join in the build. “What an awesome experience for these kids. This is something they’ll never forget.”
Hannah Secord, nine, agreed.
“It’s not every day you get to tell your friends, ‘I helped build a park and I get to be on TV.’”