Myra Merkal (right) shares the vision for an all-abilities playground for White Rock's East Beach with White Rock/Surrey CARP chair Ramona Kaptyn.

Myra Merkal (right) shares the vision for an all-abilities playground for White Rock's East Beach with White Rock/Surrey CARP chair Ramona Kaptyn.

Fashion show to be ‘seriously fun’

White Rock/Surrey CARP event to benefit all-abilities park

A vision to create a park in White Rock that is accessible to all, regardless of age or ability, has found a new friend in the White Rock/Surrey CARP organization.

This month, the advocacy group will host a bevy of politicians and dignitaries to the catwalk for the cause, at Panache on Parade, set for Sunday, May 29, from 2-5 p.m. at Morgan Creek Golf Course in South Surrey.

The fashion-focused fundraiser, according to local CARP chair Ramona Kaptyn, is a mix of two things the group does well – have fun, and be serious.

“We like having fun,” Kaptyn told Peace Arch News Friday. “We do have some very serious topics, and then we have things that are fun, and this is a combination of the two.

“We want to raise money for something that is serious, but it’s going to be fun.”

The idea for an all-abilities park in White Rock took root in 2010, following the loss of the playground in Semiahmoo Park. Driven by White Rock firefighters, a campaign launched to find a location, rally support and raise the necessary funds.

So far, $90,000 of the estimated $500,000 needed has been raised for the cause, said Myra Merkal, who has been hosting princess parties to support the project since 2011, and, last year, hiked 500 kilometres along the Camino de Santiago to raise further funds.

Merkal’s son, Evan Bird, spearheaded the idea to build the park, which is now a key focus for White Rock Firefighters’ Charity Association.

White Rock council endorsed the project last summer, directing staff to include the park in the city’s waterfront plan and finalize a location. The latter has yet to be determined, however, Merkal knows exactly where she would like to see the park come to life: on East Beach.

Merkal said the ultimate vision for the effort is that it becomes something everyone, from individuals to school groups to organizations, wants to help make happen and contribute to – “that people get together within their own little group and they raise money,” she said.

“CARP is the first group to step up. It’s so nice to have somebody else really embodying what this park is all about.”

Kaptyn said Panache on Parade is shaping up to be a success. Twelve models have committed to strut the runway in clothes from retailers Carter Burton Home, Pistachio and The Edge: Surrey MLAs Peter Fassbender, Gordon Hogg, Marvin Hunt and Sue Hammell; White Rock Couns. Bill Lawrence, David Chesney, Lynne Sinclair and Megan Knight; White Rock South Surrey Hospice Society executive director Beth Kish; Avalon Recovery Society manager Cindy Faulkner; Comfort Keepers & Semiahmoo Seniors Planning Table facilitator Youla Thomas; and jeweller José Latchinian.

White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin will give opening remarks, and three speakers – Shoshana Litvack, Taylor Byrom and Surrey-Cloverdale MLA Stephanie Cadieux – will address challenges people have.

Dozens of raffle and door prizes will be up for grabs, Kaptyn added, naming everything from a three-day car rental, wine, a diamond necklace and silk scarves, to a roundtrip for two to anywhere Westjet flies.

Another prize up for grabs is one Kaptyn described as “a really, really good thing to have” – a body pick-up from Dignity Memorial.

“We’re all going to go someday, and it’s a good thing not to stick the arrangements with your family,” she said.

A pair of White Rock firefighters will be at the fundraiser to sell the raffle tickets.

Kaptyn said the hope is the afternoon event – which will also include bistro food, beer and wine – will raise at least $5,000 towards the all-abilities park.

“It’s going to be an expensive park, but it’s going to be well worth it,” she said.

Tickets, $50, are available at Westminster Savings (at 16 Avenue and 152 Street), or by calling 778-294-0787.

An organization for all ages: chair

White Rock-Surrey CARP is an organization for all ages, but that’s not how many view the advocacy organization, chapter chair Ramona Kaptyn said.

“A lot of people have the wrong impression, that it’s a bunch of old geezers,” Kaptyn said. “You can join if you’re in your 20s or 30s, it really doesn’t matter.’

The advocacy group boasts 60 chapters and more than 300,000 members across Canada, with local membership numbering around 2,000.

Kaptyn said the organization has been “very successful” in its efforts to better financial security and access to health care, as well as the push to end age discrimination.

“We go right to the prime minister and say, this is what our issue is,” Kaptyn said. “Now, we’re keeping (Prime Minister Justin) Trudeau’s feet to the fire, to make sure he keeps all those promises he made to us.”

She named enhancing the Canada Pension Plan as another of CARP’s focuses; they’re also keeping a close eye on driver testing that’s required of motorists once they reach 80.

Local events recently hosted by CARP have included a series on dying; members also supported Sources’ Coldest Night of the Year Walk, and, last year, sponsored a youth ambassador.

For more on CARP, visit www.carp.ca. For details on the local chapter, Kaptyn may be reached at 778-294-0787.