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Soo Splash Pad is a go after nearly $110,000 raised

Soo Splash Pad Committee was launched in 2019 by Amanda TenEyck and Lisa Young
2022-01-03 splash pad
Local kids show their support for the splash pad idea.

Generous residents of Sault Ste. Marie made a big splash for kids in the city..

The Public Spaces Community Places grant offered through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), Michigan Municipal League, and Patronicity has promised to match $50,000 in donations, following the $107,185 raised by the Chippewa County Community Foundation (CCCF) and Soo Splash Pad Committee for its new splash pad.

The Soo Splash Pad Committee was launched in 2019 by Amanda TenEyck and Lisa Young. These mothers dreamed of a city water park that children and families could enjoy together. 

“Through this Public Spaces Community Places grant, nearly all fundraising goals will be met for the construction of a splash pad in Sault Ste. Marie,” TenEyck said. “This community-building attraction will give children of all ages and abilities a safe and enjoyable water play experience. Obtaining this grant means enhancing an already beautiful and beloved city park and enriching the community surrounding it.”

Unfamiliar with fundraising, the ladies partnered with CCCF.

“Amanda and Lisa asked if the foundation would help them raise money for a splash pad,” CCCF Executive Director Debbie Jones said. “They both are nurses with young kids, who wanted to build a splash pad. As nurses, their expertise is not in raising money. The foundation has the resources, so I said, ‘Let’s combine forces.’”

Preliminary steps included the splash pad’s visual conception and where to build it. 

“We decided that Project Playground was the best option,” Jones said. “Project Playground was a known location that parents already took their kids to.”

According to Jones, the Rotary Club of Sault Ste. Marie had existing plans to build bathrooms in the park. Therefore, the added expense of installing restrooms to accommodate the splash pad’s visitors could be subtracted. City water and sewer lines already ran into the park, located on city property.

“We wouldn’t have to buy property,” Jones said. 

The proposal was presented to the city commissioners in June of 2019, where it almost instantly gained approval. 

“Between June of 2019 to March of 2020, we raised $45,000,” said Jones. 

By mid-March, the pandemic came. This significantly decreased fundraising efforts. The project was resurrected in June of 2021, and all prior conversations resumed.

“We went back to the city, and they had concerns over how much water would cost,” Jones said.

That’s when she recruited Justin Knepper of Knepper Development Strategies to assist in drawing up a fundraising plan. The plan made CCCF financially responsible for up to five years of water costs, estimating anywhere between $7,500 and $11,000 annually. The city agreed to the plan.

“We went out to businesses to secure five-year pledges to help pay for five years of water,” Jones said. “At the end of five years, we do expect the city to take on that expense.”

More money was needed. The entire project would cost between $210,000 to $240,000 from start to finish.

Knepper applied for the Public Spaces Community Places grant, offered through MEDC and Michigan Municipal League, and Patronicity

In July 2021, CCCF and the Soo Splash Pad Committee jumpstarted a new crowdfunding campaign.

“We started planning for the Patronicity grant, providing a dollar-for-dollar match of up to $50,000,” Jones said.

The silent campaign targeted several area businesses and organizations, securing approximately $40,000 in monetary pledges.  

Knepper’s application was approved to officially launch the splash pad’s Patronicity campaign on Dec. 8. According to its terms, recipients have 60 days to raise a minimum of $50,000.

“In the meantime, we received a notice from Vortex, which makes the splash pad equipment, that prices would go up 25 percent on Nov. 1st,” Jones said. 

If the group wished to take advantage of lower prices, rapid action was needed.

“We weren’t sure we were going to raise all the money,” Jones said. “We didn’t want to have to pay more come November.”

The community foundation’s board went ahead to purchase the needed splash pad equipment from Vortex Aquatic Structures Inc. Equipment costs were roughly $50,000. 

“We wanted to get benches, bike racks, handwashing stations, and industrial strength picnic tables,” Jones said. “We wanted a barrier between the splash pad and parking lot for safety reasons.”

Additional funds were needed in order to complete the splash pad, establishing a community goal of $150,000. That is $100,000 from community donorship and a Patronicity match of $50,000. 

“As of today, the community has raised $107,185,” Jones said. “The splash pad will be a fun thing for kids. I think people want to be part of something positive. How can you not support something for kids?”  

While all the pieces came together in the end to construct a future splash pad, Jones said none of it would have happened without TenEyck and Young’s efforts. 

“I want to give a shoutout to Amanda and Lisa,” said Jones. “There were a number of hurdles that were not easy to get over. There were times when they could’ve given up. Instead, they persevered and never quit. If it wasn’t for their enthusiasm, we wouldn’t be where we are at today.”