A new playground at the old Glacier View Elementary School site is about $2,500 closer to reality thanks to a series of fundraisers involving musician Jesse Ruben.
Queneesh Elementary acting vice-principal Jen Turner notes her Grade 6 and 7 class came up with the idea to invite the New York-based singer/songwriter back to the Valley to help fundraise for their project.
“It’s a great start for the project,” Turner says of the $2,500, noting at least $20,000 is needed for a basic piece of playground equipment, and her students already have numerous fundraising ideas cooked up for the fall, including a raffle which is in the works for September.
“They have lots of ideas, and I know that the families down at the Glacier View site, whose little kids are going to the Waiting for the Bus program, are so happy that this is getting some attention, and they’re so excited for the future of that site down there for a playground for their kids.”
Now Glacier View Learning Centre, which is an alternate high school, the site has no playground as it was in disrepair and was torn down last year. But, the Waiting for the Bus program, which is similar to StrongStart, started at the school last year, and the toddlers in it haven’t had access to any playground equipment.
When Turner’s class at Queneesh heard about the issue, they quickly suggested seeing if Ruben would come back to the Valley to help with some fundraisers for new playground equipment.
Ruben came here earlier this year to help inspire Comox Valley students with his song We Can, which ties in well with the Valley’s I Can initiative — an initiative designed to empower students through self-directed community service projects.
Ruben agreed right away, and was here for a week earlier this month. Again, he visited various Valley elementary schools, providing inspirational concerts to students, but this time he also performed a couple of fundraising concerts, the largest being one at Queneesh, which saw about 580 people in attendance.
Ruben says he enjoyed seeing all the student completed I Can projects, many of which he saw in their early stages during his trip earlier this year.
“To see the progress that they’ve made in six months and the stuff that they’ve done, like some of the projects that those kids did were so incredible,” says Ruben. “I was totally blown away — from energy conservation to animal rescue, to like pretty heavy stuff, like sexual assault and women’s rights, and drug abuse and homelessness — and I mean they were heavy topics for these kids to take on and they really did it, they really went for it.”
Ruben adds he’s amazed at the way the Comox Valley has embraced him, noting people recognized him all over the community, like when he went out for lunch or dinner or stopped by Tim Hortons.
He expects to release a new album early next year and plans to come to the Valley for one of his few album release shows.
“I want you guys to hear the songs before anybody else,” he says. “I love these kids, I love the parents. I think it’s an amazing, incredible community and they’ve really embraced me in the last six or seven months.”
Meanwhile, Turner adds I Can continues to grow in Valley schools.
“Two years ago, it was three schools with 120 kids doing I Can showcase. This year it was five schools with 200 kids doing the I Can showcase,” she says. “We (her and Ruben) visited four more that weren’t involved in the I Can showcase but they’re getting started, so it’s blossoming.
“It’s like the first teachers who decided to try this idea, threw the rock in the water, and the ripples are still going.”