Paul Deol and his wife were waiting for their son during a one-day surgery at Surrey Memorial Hospital Children’s Health Centre, when he got an idea to help liven up the place.
“I was looking around and people were very sad… and it just didn’t feel good. I thought, ‘You know what? This sucks. We can do something better,” Deol said. “There can be a better place.”
Deol is the Surrey branch manager for McElhanney, a surveying and engineering company that has been around for nearly 110 years. He said the Surrey branch was also celebrating its 50th anniversary and wanted to do something to commemorate that.
The company had done a few projects in Green Timbers Park, along with a salmon release but were “still looking for a grand idea,” Deol said. After sitting in the hospital, Deol decided to ask McElhanney if the company was willing to do a project at the hospital.
From there, Deol said he reached out to Surrey Memorial Hospital and met with members of the hospital foundation who said the playground at the children’s health centre had “fallen into disrepair” and didn’t meet the needs of the kids.
“It needed a lot of help,” he said.
Sharon Butler is senior director of corporate partnerships and philanthropy at the Surrey Hospital and Outpatient Centre Foundation. She said the children getting treatment at the health centre weren’t really using the older playground.
This all began in October 2016, Deol said. He said the new playground took a year to plan, a few months to fundraise and a few months to build it out. The playground officially opened in July of 2018. Deol said the work was led by McElhanney and BA Blacktop/Eurovia BC.
Butler said the nurses even had a helping hand.
“They could see the process… and all the nurses were involved in it in just making sure everything was child-friendly, they had tons of input and they helped Paul with the vision because they knew what the kids would want and what the families needed,” Butler said.
The new playground has new flooring, a hockey area, a basketball hoop, benches for families to sit, stackable foam blocks and some interactive elements. The playground, however, doesn’t have as much in the way of things to climb, Butler said.
“It’s different from most playgrounds where there is tons of stuff to climb. We had to be very cognizant… These kids can’t be further injured, so it has a big space where they can really run and get fresh air.”
Asked what his favourite part of the playground was, Deol pointed to the wooden throne and table.
“There used to be a few large tree stumps; they were cedar stumps, and they looked beautiful, but they weren’t functional.”
Deol said the wooden structures were re-finished by Ryan Cook who was on HGTV’s Timber Kings.
The entire project, Deol said was with the help of volunteers. McElhanney donated $25,000 and1,447 hours of employee time to the project, according to information from Deol.
“It’s a tear-jerker. I get pretty emotional when I think about it,” he said. “I’m really impressed with everybody that came together to contribute, and everybody that we asked to help; nobody said no.”