Replacing the 'Big Toy'

  • Written by Rich Kaipust
  • Published in NW Stories
Photo: Courtesy Holy Rosary School Photo: Courtesy Holy Rosary School

Called to Serve as Christ campaign will help Holy Rosary renovate its aging playground

As the kids spill out the doors for recess at Holy Rosary School in West Seattle, many head eagerly for the same part of the playground. The “Big Toy” has been there for nearly 30 years, a center of activity for the school’s 500-plus students. Some of their parents might even have played on it as kids.

Father Matthew Oakland has been the pastor at Holy Rosary Parish for just the last four years, but he knows the popularity of the Big Toy — a collection of places to climb, slide and swing — and its place in a lot of people’s hearts.

“And it’s not just at recess, but before school and after school, after Mass, at night, on weekends … school and parish kids and neighborhood kids,” Father Oakland said.

The beloved Big Toy, however, has reached the point where it needs to be replaced — and Holy Rosary has decided to pay for it with the “parish share” funds it will receive from the Called to Serve as Christ campaign.

Before the campaign, Father Oakland said, leaders from Holy Rosary’s school commission, finance council, and facilities and maintenance committee gathered to discuss the parish’s needs and how they might appeal to parishioners.

Most pressing was the refurbishment of some stained-glass windows in the church, with the Big Toy right behind.

“The school is part of the parish community — it is the biggest ministry of the parish,” Father Oakland said. “So I don’t think of them as two different entities but as one. It was a matter of looking at the whole parish and saying, ‘What needs to be done?’

“The Big Toy has been on the wish list for a while now. It’s to the point where we’re literally pulling off parts of it each year as they become unsafe.”

Holy Rosary is not the only parish using Called to Serve as Christ funds for school improvements.

St. Paul Parish in Seattle is planning to use its funds to lay new asphalt on the parking lot that doubles as the school playground, creating safer place for its students. The lot has been in disrepair for some time, and temporary patches have only been able to delay the project.

Holy Family Parish in Seattle’s White Center neighborhood has earmarked some of its funds for renovation to its school building.

Seattle’s St. Catherine of Siena has determined that some of its share will go toward earthquake retrofitting for its school.

As part of the Called to Serve as Christ campaign, each parish receives 15 percent of the funds it raises as its “parish share.” Once a parish reaches its goal, it gets back 85 percent of all further funds raised.

Father Oakland said Holy Rosary set a parish goal of $2 million — beyond its archdiocesan goal of $1.4 million — that could fund another school improvement project. The school, like the church, is beautiful red brick, but some of the mortar of both buildings needs work to ensure structural integrity.

If funds are raised above the goal, Holy Rosary would also update bathrooms in its school and gym, the latter of which is used for physical education, CYO athletics and parish and school events.

Holy Rosary will finalize its Big Toy plan this winter and do the work over the summer. The proposal featured a more interactive space with smaller pieces.

“The initial design excited the imagination,” Father Oakland said, “as a theme was developed with a waterway with a narrows, with a woodland and mountain in the coloring of the base, the structures themselves and new landscaping.”

An initial estimate for the playground work is $285,000. Father Oakland hopes Holy Rosary can use $200,000 from its parish share funds; the rest would come from the school auction, private donations and possible grants.

Holy Rosary is excited that it can happen through help of the Called to Serve as Christ campaign.

“It needs to get done, one way or another,” Father Oakland said. “It’s been in conversation for over 10 years as needing to be done. Play is important — fueling the imagination and engaging with the world and one another. So we decided to include a new Big Toy in this campaign.”

Northwest Catholic - January/February 2019

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