By Lindsay Campbell

On July 2, the Playgrounds Program in Thunder Bay celebrated its 100th year of providing children in the city with free recreational fun. The City of Thunder Bay has encouraged the celebration of this milestone, declaring 2014 the Year of Play.

The program was founded in 1914 with the opening of five supervised playgrounds in Fort William. Over 1,500 children participated in organized sports, games, folk dance, music, and unstructured play in the first year. The original goal was to offer children of both urban and rural areas equal opportunities in unstructured play at no extra cost.

One hundred years later, the program has evolved in size and opportunities but remains true to the founding goal. Program director Trisha Sandrin says that the program still aims to be inclusive and provide children with “fun, safe recreational opportunities.”

According to Sandrin, the program is in its peak this year. “We’ve been very busy around here,” she says. The numbers are still around 1,500, but Sandrin says she is seeing more children attending the program more often, for longer periods of time than ever before. Currently, the program has 14 supervised playgrounds—nine more than they did when first founded. The program supplies children ages 5-12 with a variety of on-site activities in the area of sports, crafts, co-operative games, music, and drama, suitable to their development. Off-site special events are also scheduled throughout the summer.

When asked how it feels to be part of the program’s centennial year, Sandrin says she is truly grateful. “It’s amazing, I absolutely love the program. We provide so many recreation programs for free. It’s great to see the kids smiling and having fun. There’s no discrimination. Everyone can come and play no matter what their social background is.”