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London Hometown Hero

Opening Day for Shelah’s Place!

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The new playground is finally open! There were hundreds of excited children, just waiting for us to cut the ribbon and then wow! They ALL ran past us to play! That was the moment I had dreamed about but seeing it in person was even better than I imagined.

IMG_9693 copyThey played on every single new piece of equipment, climbing, spinning, hanging upside down, and all I could hear was the sound of pure joy. This new play area is now the largest fully accessible playground in the city.

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The triple slide seemed to be a big hit with the little ones, especially when they land on the new soft rubber safety surface.

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It was hard to count but it looked like at least 300 kids ran on to play and we had about 1,000 people who came for the opening. It was so much fun, with free snow cones, cupcakes, and face-painting. Here’s a little girl who stopped to thank me for the new playground.

Face Paint copyI simply can’t put into words how rewarding this was for me and the joy that I felt seeing this playground in person. It took a team of people from the city who worked for almost a year to make it happen and my gratitude goes out to every one on the team. I appreciate how many people turned out for the opening on a beautiful, but hot, sunny day. Most importantly, I got the share this day with the person whose idea and vision made this all possible, my London Hometown Hero, Shelah Brook. Welcome to “Shelah’s Place.”

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Playground is Almost Ready

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Kids in London are counting the days until the new playground is open and it’s almost ready. The colors are just as fun and bright as I imagined. And the number of things to do will be awesome. I love the triple slide!

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Next, they’ll be installing the rubber safety surfacing and I’m especially happy that this new playground will be handicapped accessible. I can’t wait to see it in person!

Playground in Progress

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They finally started working on the new playground in my hometown of London, Ontario. This week they are installing the handicapped accessible equipment. Then next week the entire area gets covered with rubber safety surfacing. After that, some last minute work, and then the grand opening in Springbank Park.

This is the park where I used to play growing up. My sister and I couldn’t wait to get on the swings and teeter totter and we loved the little round wading pool. Springbank Park is a beautiful place that sits alongside the Thames River. Yes, both London, Ontario and London, England have a Thames River.

I have only seen pictures of what’s to come and I can’t wait until it’s actually there. The grand opening is coming soon!

First Look at the New Playground

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Here’s a rendering of the new playground coming to my hometown of London, Ontario. That’s all rubber safety surfacing and there are so many fun things to do I can’t even list them all. I wanted it to be colorful (if you’ve seen my kitchen and all those spatulas, you know I love color!) and I think the blue, yellow, and red look fantastic.

The work starts next month and the grand opening is planned for June 18th. There is a post on the city website where comments by residents are welcomed. Here’s a link:

http://www.london.ca/residents/Parks/Parks-Projects/Pages/Springbank-Park-Playground-Upgrade.aspx

Making Progress in London

We are well underway with the new playground at Springbank Park. A few months ago, I committed some funding for a brand new accessible playground in my hometown of London, Ontario. The idea was suggested by London local, Shelah Brook, and now she and I are both part of the team working on the development of the new play area.

We just had our second meeting, with me on Skype, and things are moving quickly. In just a few weeks we will have some designs to look at and I can hardly wait for that. The plan is for a grand opening in the spring. I had committed $130,000 in Canadian funds but the exchange rate is so favorable, I added a little more and now our budget is $150,000 CAD.

I’ve never skyped before and I would rather be there in person but I’m glad to be able to participate so there I am on the laptop.

Photo3_1200There are quite a few people on the team and they are the nicest bunch. (but that’s what everyone says about Canadians!) From left to right we have: Shelah Brook (this was her idea), Julie Michaud, Dianna Clarke, (me), Judy Spencer, Michael Dawthorne, and Terri-Sue Wyatt. Andrew Macpherson, the manager of environmental and parks planning, was there too but somebody had to take the picture!

So that’s my progress report. More updates to come…

We got the front page!

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Shelah (and her handsome husband) made the front page of the London Free Press today! My sister was the first one to tell me, saying it was “above the fold” and that made it even bigger news! I called Shelah and she said neighbors have been coming by to congratulate her and that Gord is taking her out to dinner tonight to celebrate. What a guy! And he works for the police service! As it turns out, both Gord and Shelah are doing something great for the city.

Here is a picture of Gord and Shelah celebrating! They chose to order in and be cozy!!

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The Winning Idea for London

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Congratulations to Shelah Brook, my final choice for London Hometown Hero! I just called to give her the news that her winning idea of a new, state-of-the-art playground in Springbank Park had been chosen and she was so excited… but then I am too.

in London, Ont. on Thursday October 1, 2015. Craig Glover/The London Free Press/Postmedia Network

in London, Ont. on Thursday October 1, 2015. Craig Glover/The London Free Press/Postmedia Network

Her husband, Gord, helped set up my surprise call. In her application Shelah said, “Springbank Park has attracted visitors from all over the city for generations,” adding that a new playground would become the centerpiece attraction it should be.

Shelah is a home daycare provider and pilates instructor and says she knows the importance of play for both children and adults. She requested $100,000 (which will be $130,000 CAD) for an accessible playground that will bring joy and fun to all children and their families.

Shelah is a married mother of 5 adult children and her husband works for the City of London Police Service. They have lived in London for 30 years.

This choice for a new playground satisfies many of the criteria I was looking for. I wanted something that could be enjoyed by as many people as possible and something long lasting. This certainly qualifies. I was also influenced by the large number of people who asked for playgrounds in various parks and schools. In fact, more requests came in for new playgrounds than anything else.

I have already spoken to a London city planner and we will all be working together to design a fabulous new playground, which will likely be installed in the spring. It will be situated right where I used to play as a child on the swings and teeter-totter.

Finally, I want to thank the hundreds of Londoners who submitted their ideas and I only wish I could have done much more. These are all people with big hearts who want to help their neighbors and their city and I encourage everyone to continue looking for ways to help the London community.

The design progress and timeline of the new playground will be available here in my blog for anyone wanting to follow along. I hope to have some drawings and photos soon. Congratulations again, Shelah!

To see the London Free Press feature, click here.

To see the CTV News feature, click here.

London Hometown Hero

LondonHometownHero_ButtonLondon, Ontario is my hometown and I’ve committed $130,000 to do something big for the city where I grew up. I’ve asked Londoners to submit ideas on how we can best spend the money to benefit the London community and someone will soon be chosen as a London hometown hero. Check in here for updates…

UPDATE: Oct. 1st

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Congratulations to Shelah Brook, my final choice for London Hometown Hero! I just called to give her the news that her winning idea of a new, state-of-the-art playground in Springbank Park had been chosen and she was so excited… but then I am too. (click here for more)

UPDATE: Sept. 24th 

I’m getting ready to announce the winner in one week! It’s going to happen on October 1st. That’s earlier than expected but why wait? Submissions started coming in more than five weeks ago and have been narrowed down and narrowed down and now it’s finally just a handful that are being considered.

I’m so excited I can hardly sleep! One more week!

UPDATE: Sept. 19th 

There are a lot of good, caring people in London. Hundreds of people submitted so many great ideas and showed that they want to help their community in a big way. As excited as I am to be able to choose and provide something great for the city, I will also be sad that I can’t do more. I hope everyone understands that this will not be an easy choice and if your idea is not selected I hope you will all continue to look for ways to help others.

For anyone interested, here is some information about the submissions:

  • The age range of those applying was from teens to 90s.
  • The occupations ranged from retired, stay-at-home mom, teacher, student, homeless, business owner, professor, health care worker, doctor, dentist, pharmacist, optometrist, scientist, psychologist, bus driver, volunteer, even a sewer inspector.
  • Below were some of the most common requests in order of popularity:

Playgrounds in parks and schools

Help for the homeless

Tree planting

Community gardens

Splashpads

Transitional housing

Help for seniors

Upgrade Storybook Gardens

Healthy food for the underprivileged

Thames River projects

…and many, many more…

Please check back for updates as the process of selection is underway.

UPDATE: Sept. 15th (5:00 pm PST)

The application process is officially closed. Stay tuned…

UPDATE: Sept. 15th (10:00 am PST)

Today is the last day for any ideas on how to spend a bunch of money in London. We will be closing down the suggestion form at 5:00 pm today California time (8:00 pm in London). Please keep in mind that I will not be writing a check. The ideas need to be for tangible things that can be purchased. In my next update I will share some details about the ideas that have been submitted.

UPDATE: Sept. 8th

There is one week left for any suggestions out there. Hundreds have come in so far and although it’s great to see all the ideas that will benefit London, only one will be chosen and I hope the people whose ideas are not chosen will understand and not feel slighted. This will not be an easy decision but I can hardly wait to move forward. The deadline for suggestions is September 15th!

UPDATE: Aug. 25th

Well this is embarrassing. When asked last week if my gift was in Canadian funds I had to think for a second and thought, “well of course it’s Canadian funds – it’s being spent in Canada.” I had no idea that the exchange rate was historically low. In fact the last time I remember, the U.S. dollar was worth more in Canada. Maybe if I kept up with financial news I would have known that but not me… I’m too busy baking cookies!

So I humbly announced today that the gift was calculated in my mind in U.S. funds and wow! $100 grand U.S. is worth $130 grand in Canada! Not a problem. But the headline in the local paper gave me pause (“Jones adjusts hero award to loonie rate”) until I remembered that a loony is a Canadian dollar. Whew!

UPDATE: Aug. 18th – 9:00 p.m.

It’s 9:00 p.m. and I’m exhausted. Getting the word out took most of the day and so far it seems to be working. Ideas have been coming in all day. It’s times like this that social media is at its finest. I was interviewed by the London Free Press for a story to run tomorrow, and about 30 minutes later, the story was online. Back in the day, we had to wait until the next morning to read the paper.

Thank you for all your suggestions so far and it’s so good to see how many people are passionate about helping others. A reminder that my foundation will not make cash donations. This project needs to be something tangible so we can all see exactly where the money is being spent. I know no greater joy than giving to others and because this is my hometown, I am that much more joyful and waiting for each idea with great anticipation.