HIDDEN HEROES: Surrey students raise $11K for inclusive playground equipment

Siblings at Surrey's Green Timbers Elementary come up big as ‘magical’ idea makes inclusive swing a reality.

Surrey siblings – from left

NEWTON — The gymnasium at Surrey’s Green Timbers Elementary school erupted with applause after the Sekhon siblings told their classmates how they raised $11,000 for a meaningful project in a single night.

It’s a story of “three students who did something spectacular in order for something spectacular to happen,” said Principal John Horstead.

Ladee, 7, Kabir, 8, and Channee, 13, heard about their principal’s dream to build 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 had only raised about $7,000.

“This is my third year at the school and I’ve got a lot of kids who are special needs,” said Horstead. “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.’

“Over time it became more and more evident we were going to need a miracle to get that swing. The swing idea went dormant for a while… but then something magical happened.”

Thanks to the Sekhon siblings, the school now has the cash needed to build it.

Channee said they didn’t think it was fair that some kids couldn’t play, and could only watch. They brainstormed with their parents and thought about holding bottle drives or putting on car washes.

But instead, they decided to ask for donations at their father Gurjinder’s annual Sussex Insurance conference. He’s a franchisee owner in Vancouver.

They got to work putting together a power point and a speech to present together at the event.

In a few short minutes, they received thousands of dollars in donations – and Sussex matched them all.

“Some people say kids can’t change the world,” said Channee with a grin.

“I want to prove those people wrong.”

Father Gurjinder couldn’t be more proud.

“No, I was not expecting it to be honest,” he said with a smile. “The company was also very generous, they matched all the donations so that’s why we reached this number… We believe in giving back to the community in our business, that is our philosophy.”

The swing is set to be built during the school’s summer break and an official ribbon cutting is planned for the fall.

“We strive to be as inclusive as we can,” said Horstead. “Every Wednesday, the whole school gets out for some combined exercise but the kids in the wheelchairs couldn’t make it all the way around because there wasn’t a blacktop that connected with the school. So I’ve got a sensory room now, I’ve got that blacktop now that allows the kids in wheelchairs to go all the way around the school, and now I’m going to have this piece of equipment.

“This is a huge step.”

amy.reid@thenownewspaper.com

Do you know a Hidden Hero in your community? Email us at edit@thenownewspaper.com

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