What Dreams Are Made of: Rebuilding Kids’ Kingdom

February 8, 2021 | by rebecca stewart

Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, a magical domain was created where young ones reigned supreme. It was a place where they could run and jump, climb to the tallest towers, then slide down swirly slides. With separate spaces for the littlest of littles and the surest footed of bigs, Kids’ Kingdom in Laurel, MT has been privy to squeals of delight and home to endless turns of imagination for 15 years.

Taking us from then to now is Kara Thomae who is heading the public relations for Kids’ Kingdom’s hopeful new adventures.

Back in the early 2000s when Kids’ Kingdom was coming to fruition, four moms had heard that the City Council had park grant money that was to be designated for a small play feature at Thomson Park. Those four moms went to the City and convinced them to let them fundraise to plan a larger scale project for Kiwanis Park. To create a space that would be genuinely enjoyed by kids, they went direct to the source, visiting kids at schools, asking what they dreamed of in a playground. At the time, wooden playgrounds were a coveted park addition – there are several across Montana – but the reality of such structures is that they require a ton of maintenance. For years, those mamas stained the playground until the project was given over to the City. Annually, there are many repairs required to safely maintain Kids’ Kingdom and it’s gotten to the point where major components are in need of replacement. If not able to be replaced (at sizable expense), then the playground would be closed and torn down.

Which brings us to present day. With many a memory made at Kids’ Kingdom, the idea of it not being around for other kiddos in the years to come is devastating. Thus, the Laurel MT Community Foundation (the 501c3 entity responsible for collecting all funds raised) and Grace Bible Church (engaged by the City to lead the organization efforts) have been tasked with the incredible undertaking of game planning a new strategy for Kiwanis Park’s crown jewel.

Reality Check

Though there have been herculean efforts to maintain the current structure, the question remains:

If we fix this now for $150,000, are we going to have to keep replacing pieces in a few years?

Though, the wooden play structure is beloved, the reality is, it’s just not sustainable. The committee, then, had the challenge of determining what the most appropriate solution would be. They’ve since determined that the best option is to replace what is there with weatherproof, powder-coated metal. 

Having received a bid from a playground equipment company in Great Falls that came in well below the quoted repair costs, this would allow for adding benches, fixing the fence, getting new ground cover, and possibly painting the bathrooms, repairing basketball hoops, and adding picnic tables. All with the added bonus of also having playground equipment that is projected to last longer than 15 years, with minimal maintenance requirements.

Raising the Funds

Of the $150,000 goal, $20,000 has been raised thus far. In addition to various fundraising efforts, the committee has a grant writer through the Laurel MT Community Foundation who is applying for every grant appropriate for this project. Additionally, Kara notes that the committee reached out to the group that organized and fundraised Lockwood Lion’s Den playground and community development programs to best determine how to engage the community and implement fundraising strategies.

The committee will find out if their grant requests paid off in the next eight-10 weeks, meanwhile, let’s look at how you can help! 

Upcoming Fundraisers

  • **POSTPONED** February 13- Bundle of Love Walk at Kiwanis Park in Laurel. Sign ups at 9:30am, entry fee is a donation to the project. Walk starts at 10am. (2 laps around the park = 2-miles). Cookies and cocoa after!
  • March 6- Drive Up Donating. 11am-2pm. Drive by Kiwanis Park and make a donation without even getting out of your car!
  • Raffle- $5/ticket or 5 tickets for $20. The community has donated over 30 gift baskets or cards that will be drawn for on April 10. Tickets may be purchased in Laurel at Hair on Main, State Farm Insurance, or by contacting Kara at 794.5456.

You can also make online donations via Laurel Montana Community Foundation’s Facebook page or website: laurelcommunity.org/donate.

The Timeline

Incredibly, the committee is looking to have funds raised and organize volunteers and materials for a May 2021 work week to restore the park. While the playground equipment company takes care of the install, the teardown will be volunteer fueled.

Kara acknowledges that it’s possible the build could be pushed into the summer as funds continue to be gathered, but the bonus of the new metal playground is that there is the option to stage the build – starting with the large, main playground feature, adding on as money continues to be raised. An option that would not have been available in making repairs to the current structure, as every issue would have needed to be addressed at once to be up to code or face permanent closure. Ultimately, says Kara, “Our goal is to raise all the funds and make this park a new, fun, and exciting place for families to spend time together.” 

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