IDAHO FALLS – After an outpouring of community support, a new Idaho Falls YMCA playground is a reality.
The Y once used a decades-old playground for its youth and children’s programs before YMCA of Idaho Falls Acting CEO Donovan Stokes had an idea. Last year, Stokes began a community-traveling mission to raise nearly $140,000 and build a new playground in memory of Christina Anderson, a local single mother who supported the organization.
“I realized miracles were happening because I had no idea what I was doing,” Stokes said. “All I knew was walking around with donation boxes and hosting events… I started seeing strangers become family and say ‘I don’t know you, you don’t know me, but let’s get together let’s arms up and help get this playground done.'”
As the Y ceremonially opened the snowy playground on Friday afternoon, the event centered on Anderson, who died in 2019 after a battle with cancer. People remembered Anderson’s willingness to always help the Y, where she enrolled her two daughters in the year before her death.
The Anderson girls cut the yellow ribbon as community members, donors and the Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce clapped in celebration.
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“She always had a smile on her face,” Stokes said. “One of the things that kept me going was seeing her face and saying that if she could do what she was going through and stay positive, that was motivation that I needed to keep going. come on…I can hear him say ‘go ahead.'”
Stokes explained that so many people helped build the playground, including a man who appeared to be homeless. As Stokes campaigned on the streets of Idaho Falls to raise money, the man recalled being served by the YMCA as a child, which gave him a safe place to play.
The man eventually gave his only dollar to Stokes, who in turn helped complete the playing field.
“I still have a ways to go because I still have to do landscaping, painting stuff like that,” Stokes said. “If you’re out there and you have extra dollars and want to help the YMCA, every dollar counts. We’re just trying to continue this program in this great community and do even bigger and better things.
Anyone interested in donating to the Idaho Falls Y or learning more about its programs can visit its website.