About seven years ago, the federal government announced they would be eliminating the penny. Today that announcement has led to the construction of a waterpark in 100 Mile House.
“We were just discussing it over dinner and my husband just said ‘wouldn’t it be great if everybody donated all their pennies?’ when we saw on the news that the one-cent coin was going out of circulation,” says Jamie Hughes-Rywaczuk, the driving force behind the project.
She posted the idea to Facebook and it caught on. They started collecting pennies in big water jugs around the community and would roll them up with a bunch of volunteers on the weekends and raised about $1,300.
Once the pennies were collected, they held a vote in the community on whether to give it to a charity or to build a waterpark. About 90 per cent of the vote was for a waterpark, according to Hughes. She says she had no idea what to do next but got some encouragement from Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett.
When they met with a waterpark rep at the time, they found out the cost was about four times as high as what Williams Lake had paid for their water park about 10 years earlier, she says.
They went to the South Cariboo Joint Committee and were told that if they managed to fundraise the money the committee would provide the land.
“We got our first lump sum of $20,000 from the Youth and Rec Association. They were folding in 100 Mile,” she says. “So we had a decent little foundation to build on.”
They held some fundraisers, including bake sales and an outdoor movie night.
“When we did the movie night that was kind of our boost because that’s when we realized how much the community wanted this project because we had so many people come to the park and donate quite a bit.”
Many of the local businesses were eager to help bring the events as well, she says.
They reapproached the South Cariboo Joint Committee and told them the project was going to be out of reach at which point they agreed to build the lift station at their cost.
“We just kept hitting roadblocks though. There were no government grants that were available for a water park anywhere in the province. They’ve never given a grant for a waterpark that we’ve seen. We applied to everything. We just kept getting declined, declined, declined.”
With help from the Joint Committee and the province they did ultimately reach their goal of $220,000. They wouldn’t be building without the help from the district, the CRD and our MLA, she says.
Von Rywaczuk, Jamie’s husband, says they felt pretty defeated at times and was ready to give up. However, Jamie ads they hit a point of no return.
“When you have a community’s support and involvement and money, you can’t quit.”
When asked if they would do it again, Von and Jamie responded with an instant and simultaneous “no” followed by laughter.
“It was hard. I shed tears,” says Jamie. Von says there were sleepless nights.
“Sitting here and seeing this just makes it worthwhile. You realize that we made this happen,” says Von.
In the summer, much of the play equipment is too hot and the creek isn’t the safest because of the risk of drowning, says Jamie, who runs a daycare and has young children.
“A water park is perfect.”
They were hoping to have it open for July 1, but are currently anticipating it opening on Aug. 1.
They say they’re really grateful for all the community support from those who donated pennies to those who donated thousands as well as Norm and Jen Knutsen and past and present members of the Waterpark Society.