After a surprise $100,000 donation from philanthropists Darren and Joanne Gunn (back row, second and third places) the Carman Splash Pad Committee is planning to get their new aquatic facility up and running by this summer.
Thanks to a surprise donation from a former area resident and her husband, the Carman Splash Pad project is gaining the momentum it needs to move construction up to this summer.
Darren and Joanne Gunn recently donated $100,000 to the project, bringing the total amount raised for the new facility to $214,000.
While the couple doesn’t live in the area (or even the province), Joanne grew up in Stephenfield and has fond memories of recreation in Carman.
“My mom would drive me in to the pool to take swimming lessons,” she said. “I started when I was five and went all the way through to the top of all the swimming lessons they offered in Carman.”
She went on to earn her Bronze Medallion the Pan Am Pool in Winnipeg, while her mother kept up the tradition of family swimming lessons with the next generation.
“My mom continued with all the grandkids through the years,” Joanne said. “They all were from Winnipeg and Kenora and yet they learned to swim in Carman.”
“That’s always kept us with an eye on possibly someday being able to give something back to Carman,” she added.
So when the Gunns learned about the idea to create a splash pad, they were excited to help out.
Their kids are currently living in and going to university in Sackville, New Brunswick, which is about the size of Carman, and the town recently installed its own splash park.
“When I saw it I thought this is such a fabulous thing, it’s so fun,” said Joanne. “It would be so great to have little kids and see them enjoying that.”
Both Darren and Joanne said they believe the project is great for the community as a whole.
“I think the project is a good project because it is not only for young families,” added Darren. “Carman has a lot of grey hairs that come for the golf and that. Well, what’s better than taking your grandkid down to a splash park?”
Darren said it’s also great to see a facility that’s accessible for all abilities.
“Wheelchair accessibility is a big thing,” he said. “It’s so nice that everyone can participate.”
And he noted that it’s nice to see the Splash Pad Committee taking the initiative to keep the town vibrant.
“Years ago towns had Kinsmen clubs and Kinette Clubs to do these things,” he said. “Now it seems like everybody’s working and no one has the time to do those community things. So to see a young group like these ladies…that’s pretty exciting to see that kind of community spirit again.”
Grateful for support
Splash Pad Committee member Nicky Spencer said the group is “so appreciative” of the donation.
“It is just thrilling,” she said. “We were speechless, so grateful. It was just so wonderful that someone who had been from the community before heard about this and wanted to donate to us.”
The donation moved them ahead quite a bit from where their fundraising efforts were at. As of the end of 2016, the group was planning to break ground on the project in 2018. Now, they’re hoping to have a shovel in the ground this spring.
“It basically doubled our fundraising efforts, and so that allowed us to really push to get it going right away,” said Committee member Lynsey Hannah. “We are hoping that we can ride the momentum – we’re pretty excited about it.”
“When we first started fundraising, we were really excited about it but we weren’t quite there financially – it was a big end goal,” she added. “And now this hundred thousand dollars is really pushing us forward. We’re really excited about it and we hope the community will get behind us and support us.”
The Town of Carman and RM of Dufferin sent a letter to residents this week asking for them to consider making a donation to the project.
The Splash Pad Committee has increased their budget to $400,000, so they still need to raise a little under $200,000 in the next few months.
“We actually decided to do a little bit bigger of a pad and with more exciting features and to have the water system that costs a little bit more upfront but will save on tax dollars and operational costs,” explained Hannah. “We’re more than halfway there, which is fantastic. And we are very motivated and very excited.”
Spencer noted that the more expensive water system is also more ecologically friendly.
Construction could start fairly soon.
“We are hoping for spring, but we just need to wait to hear from contractors and stuff,” Spencer said. “Right now we’re looking at designs from three different companies, then we’ll pick from there and as soon as we can, get a date from them.”
Hannah said they are all looking forward to making their vision of an accessible, free of charge recreation water facility that is different, new and exciting a reality.
“Whenever it can start, the earliest the better,” she said.
“I am really looking forward to it,” Spencer added. “My kids are at the age right now where they’ll really enjoy it. We have this wonderful pool that is amazing to use but it would just be nice to have something else in the community, an addition and an added benefit.”
Darren said he hopes that their donation will encourage other people to support the community as well.
“We are really excited,” he said. “We’re happy to help.”
And Joanne said that in the long run, she hopes this kind of investment ensures a good future for the area.
“I just hope that Carman keeps on being a good place to raise families and the place where young families want to live,” Joanne said. “As we move around, you see more and more rural towns falling by the wayside and becoming more like ghost towns and it would be nice if that didn’t happen to Carman and that it continued on.
“Having things for families will hopefully enable that to happen,” she said.