Playing is part of any healthy child’s development, and playing outdoors even more so. For the children at Genesis Elementary school, an asphalt courtyard will soon be transformed into a multi-purpose, green turf through the initiative of one motivated parent.

Philip Santos, a mortgage specialist at RBC, felt that while Genesis is an amazing school, the only thing it was lacking was a nice schoolyard. The current yard is divided into two sections, one for the first to third graders and the other for fourth to sixth graders, and is made of asphalt. “My son would come home with his pants ripped or bleeding in the knees,” said the father of two.

Santos decided to join Home and School, Genesis’ parents association, to try to rally support for his vision of beautifying the schoolyard. He formed a committee of 10 members to make the green schoolyard a reality.

Their vision was to give the 249 students at the bilingual elementary school a place where they could enjoy the outdoors, and not just in physical education class. The turf can be enjoyed through sports, picnics or reading. There’s also the potential for after-school soccer camps, and since the turf is multi-purpose the students can use it for any sport: soccer, baseball, field hockey, you name it.

Irene Agosto, the principal at Genesis Elementary, felt that Santos was instrumental in the revamping project. “He’s a parent who’s definitely involved and he put so much time and effort into the soccer turf,” she said. “They gave so much of their personal time to do this and it was a huge, huge endeavour.”

The president of Home and School, Tina Rosato, who is an educator herself, envisions literacy circles on the turf where the children could sit and read together. A mother of three, she currently has two children enrolled in Genesis and one who will be starting next year. Rosato was all too familiar with the scraped knees from the asphalt. “Sometimes they would come home with band aids on their knees and they would say ‘Oh I tripped, I fell,’” she said. She knows that the scrapes are all part of growing up; however, the turf will be able to provide a little more safety for the children.

Funding for the project was divided three ways: one third from Home and School, one third from the ministry through grant applications and one third from the AVEC program. That meant Home and School had to come up with $17,000.

To raise the money the committee organized a comedy night and they were not only able to hit their goal in one evening, but also threw an event that brought the community together. “I can’t tell you how much work it took to plan the comedy night and what a success it was,” said Rosato.

The evening featured four stand-up comedians: Guido Grasso, Sebastien Bourgault, Eman El-Husseini and Mike Patterson. “It was very well organized,” said Agosto. “The parents in this community are very involved and want the best for their kids, so they jump right in there with both feet and they did an amazing job.”

The show, which took place March 27 in the basement of Notre-Dame-de-l’Amour-Divin church, sold out all 250 tickets. “We had politicians there, administrators, parents, lunch supervisors, we had educators from daycare. We even had the priest from the church! It brought everybody together and we all did it for a good cause,” Rosato said enthusiastically.

Rosato was also touched by the generosity of the sponsors. Places like Inter-Marche, Van Houtte coffee and Patisserie St-Martin donated drinks and snacks to make the evening extra special. The sponsorships were part of what made it possible for the committee to raise $15,500 in one night. That amount, plus money that was already put aside from Home and School, made up the $17,000 the committee needed to see their new turf installed.

They also needed volunteers for the evening, and Rosato was moved when a group of 10 students from the English high school’s leadership program pitched in to help the night run smoothly. Decked out in Home and School T-shirts the 15-year-olds were serving people, clearing tables and helping out however they could.

As of now the exact date of the turf installation is not set. After all the estimates, application, fundraising and inquiries, the project now needs to go to tender where companies can bid on the job. Once that’s settled, the students can expect a new turf by September, along with an inauguration ceremony to look forward to.