In the past three years, the number of homeless families has increased by 65% in Columbus. Shelters are at or above capacity in the city. Until the opening of the Van Buren Center the YWCA was operating at almost three times their capacity with one hundred and forty families. The Van Buren Center’s capacity of 85 families was able to alleviate some of the overflow.
While many shelters try to provide families with a safe and comfortable living environment, places for children to play are few and far between. If the shelter even has a play area it’s not exactly the most inviting place to play. Toys are minimal and swing sets are but a dream for the children. The Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation helped turn the dream of having a place to play into a reality.
— CBJ Gives Back (@CBJGivesBack) August 21, 2015
Armed with tools, muscles and laughter, the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation, staff, and players headed west of downtown to the Van Buren Center to build a hockey-themed playground.
“Any chance we can get to go and help a good cause you have to go and do it. It’s just fantastic to see all these people helping,” Ryan Murray told the Blue Jackets.
The Jackets staff were met by workers from Playworld Midstates who quickly got to work building the hockey themed playground. Holes were dug and concrete was poured to help support the playset that was being built. Players and staff jumped in to put the slide in place. By the end of the day 100,000 pounds of mulch was laid, everyone was smiling, and families had a place to enjoy.
“This playground gives them the opportunity to have a little joy in their life, to be able to play, to be able to exercise, and to be able to forget for just a moment they are homeless,” Michelle Heritage the CEO of the Community Shelter Board explained to the Blue Jackets, “The thing about the Blue Jackets is they are truly a community partner. They really care. They’re not just here to play hockey. They are really here to build a better community and this is evidence of it today when you look around at this beautiful new playground.”
Heritage is right, the playground at the Van Buren Center is a beauty. The only thing more beautiful than the new playground is the smile on the faces of the children who stay at the Van Buren Center.
— Isaac Oyer (@isaacisaginger) September 9, 2015
The playground was funded by a grant from the Columbus Blue Jackets foundation. Which means the fans helped fund this project. Every celebrity bartending event and silent auction led to this moment. Think about that the next time you donate to the Columbus Blue Jackets foundation.
Every dollar that was raised during the 2014-15 season matters to the children who get to play on this playground.
Elaine is in her first year writing for The Hockey Writers. She will mostly be covering the Columbus Blue Jackets, Lake Erie Monsters, NWHL, and the charitable works all hockey players partake in.
She just ended a two season internship with the Ohio AAA Blue Jackets.