All corners of community pitch in for inclusive swing at Surrey’s Green Timbers Elementary

“Today is a symbol that if we all work together and keep our eyes on an important goal, then we can and will accomplish that goal."

Green Timbers principal John Horstead

Green Timbers principal John Horstead

SURREY — The wet and dreary weather wasn’t enough to wipe off the smiles of students at Green Timbers Elementary as the school’s new inclusive swing was unveiled.

The school’s 500 or so students recently marched outside in their raingear to witness the ribbon cutting of the newly installed red swing. Cheers and applause erupted as the ribbon was sliced.

“Today is more than just officially opening the swing. It represents something more than that,” school principal John Horstead told the students, teachers and community members.

“I’ve got a lot of kids who are special-needs,” the principal explained.

Twenty-four, in fact.

“I’ve got kids who are in wheelchairs, I’ve got kids with autism. They can’t swing on the swings like regular kids. And a lot of kids with autism need that stimulation but we can’t do anything. I said, ‘I need a piece of equipment that every kid in the school can use.’”

The project has been several years of planning – and fundraising – in the making.

In July, the Now told readers about three siblings who raised $11,000 to help pay for the swing. Ladee, Kabir and Channee (aged seven, eight and 13 at the time) heard about their principal’s dream to install playground equipment that children in wheelchairs and those with disabilities could use.

The hitch? The inclusive swing he had in mind came with a price tag of $18,000 when factoring in construction costs. And after two years of fundraising, the school was still a far cry from that.

The kids got to work creating a PowerPoint presentation and a speech, and presented it at their father Gurjinder’s annual Sussex Insurance conference. In a few short minutes, they received thousands of dollars in donations, all matched by Sussex.

Surrey siblings – from left, Ladee, Channee and Kabir Sekhon – didn’t think it was fair that some kids couldn’t play. So they did something about it. (Photo: AMY REID)

Horstead described their contribution as “magical.”

A donation of $5,000 by Green Timbers Covenant Church (GTCC) was also a godsend, the principal added, and the school’s PAC raised the rest.

The church’s fundraising began two years ago through a back-to-school yard sale, explained GTCC lead pastor Andy Sebanc.

“All the funds raised at the sale, anything sold, any of the food, came directly to the school. And we matched up to $2,500 on top of that from our Fullerton Fund,” said Sebanc.

“We realize that many (people) in the neighbourhood are a different religion than us,” Sebanc said. “That doesn’t preclude us from serving them but it becomes harder to find ways to interact. So we’ve become very much involved with the school because that’s a way we can at least participate in blessing the kids. If we’re blessing the kids, then we’re blessing the neighbourhood.”

Seated in his office shortly after the ribbon-cutting, a young boy with autism walked into Horstead’s office.

The principal’s face lit up as he recalled taking the boy on the swing.

“They get on that swing, and you feel their whole body relaxed,” Horstead said excitedly, explaining many children with autism like the rhythm it provides. It’s therapeutic, he added.

But the swing isn’t the end. Horstead is dreaming bigger.

He plans to raise funds for an outdoor classroom, which would be a first for the district, the principal said.

“That would be $140,000 or so, so that’s a very ambitious goal,” he said, adding that while he recognizes the challenge, he remains optimistic.

“Today is a symbol that if we all work together and keep our eyes on an important goal, then we can and will accomplish that goal,” he said, smiling.

amy.reid@thenownewspaper.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Record-setting high jumper Emma de Boer, who lives in Cloverdale and attends Holy Cross Regional High School in Fleetwood, will train and study architecture at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) next fall. (submitted photo)
Surrey jumper on a high after recruitment by UPenn track team

High jumper Emma de Boer aims to leave Cloverdale for Philadelphia next fall

Surrey RCMP Gang Enforcement Team street check. (File photo)
Surrey RCMP gang enforcement team seizes five vehicles

This was over 13 days, as SGET continues to target gang activity in this city

File photo
Surrey to borrow $150 million for three major recreation projects

That’s for a sports complex in the city centre, a sports and ice complex in Cloverdale and a community centre in Newton

The White Birch proposal for a six-storey rental-only building at 1485 Fir St. was turned down by council on Monday night. (Contributed rendering)
White Birch developer feels ‘betrayed’ by City of White Rock council

Application for new rental building at 1485 Fir St. turned down by council

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

The search is centered around the waters northeast of Port Angeles

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Surrey RCMP are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed at 183 Street and Highway 10 Friday night. (File photo)
Modelling of predicted transmission growth from the B117 COVID-19 variant in British Columbia. (Simon Fraser University)
COVID-19 variant predicted to cause ‘unmanageable’ case spike in B.C: report

SFU researchers predict a doubling of COVID-19 cases every two weeks if the variant spreads

RCMP officers wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 stand by. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
RCMP appeal for witnesses after hit-and-run leaves girl, 17, in critical condition

The Metro Vancouver teenager was found unconscious and critically injured after being hit: police

The Brucejack mine is 65 km north of Stewart in northwestern B.C. (Pretivm Photo)
B.C. mine executives see bright gleam in post-COVID future

Low carbon drives demand for copper, steelmaking coal

Most Read