The revitalization of Trace Manes Park’s playground is now in full swing thanks to the fundraising efforts of Jillian Walsh.
In remembrance of her six-year-old daughter, Georgia, the family and Leaside community pulled together to surpass the $1 million goal, and even the stretch goal of $1.2 million, to end at $1.31 million. It’s a conclusion that has helped Walsh to heal after the tragedy that befell her family on July 16, 2014.
While surveying the property at McRae Drive and Millwood Road, Walsh walked over sand and grass to illustrate the L-shape that will be adorned with a news splash pad and a state-of-the-art playground.
“What I’m hoping for is a signature playground in the city,” she said. “With the funds that have been so generously donated to us we want to make it state-of-the-art, cutting edge. We want it to be a testament to the kindness of the people who rallied around us in our time of grief and pain.”
Her voice wavered, a touch of sorrow present, but she said the playground has helped her channel the pain.
“Her accident happened at this corner, the underlying message was, ‘You know what? This happened to us,’ ” she said. “It was random and it does not mean that this neighbourhood is not safe. It does not mean that children cannot play.
“We wanted to bring back that joy,” Walsh added. “We wanted to suppress the fear that was instilled in people.”
A donor wall will be erected with different sized-balloons signifying the amounts given. It will be on the south side of the park, parallel to the tennis club fence.
The goal was surpassed through various charity events, including Jump for Georgia, a direct mail campaign and the Georgia Walsh Memorial All-Star Game, which provided a day of baseball to Leasiders. Premier Kathleen Wynne threw the opening pitch at the second annual event held in 2016.
One of the largest donations came from developer Shane Baghai who gave $250,000 to the initiative.
Ground will be broken in the spring of 2018, and there are plans to name the playground in honour of Georgia.
“There is no part of it that I regret or doesn’t enhance my pain. If anything, it’s been a way to channel my pain,” Walsh said. “It’s very rewarding to know that she’s not just lost and that we had to turn the next chapter the next day.
“I’ve been pouring my grief into something like this that can continue for years and years to come.”