Play Date with Emily Stowe brings community together to support public school

By Chris Abbott, Postmedia Network


Students at Emily Stowe Public School in Norwich will benefit from the sixth annual Play Date With Emily Stowe, an annual fundraiser organized by the Emily Stowe Home and School Association.

"We're working towards building up some more money for our outdoor enhancement project - it's a multi-stage project," said Andrea Padfield from the Home and School Association during the March 3 event.

"We're doing things like building up our technology in the school, team uniforms, field trips, helping out with the healthy snack program," added Padfield. "Anything in general to help the school."

"This is the sixth annual, and this is two years in a row we've sold out," said Erin Davis, co-chair, noting they raised funds for two sets of climbers in the first two years, and it took two auctions to start the outdoor classroom. "There's 500-plus students in the school and only one set of climbers could be transferred from the other schools, the rest were all out of date."

That led to the first Play Date with Emily Stowe - the home and school association's only major fundraiser of the year.

"It was the whole concept of everybody coming out, and instead of having a play date with your kids, it was a play date for the kids, to support the kids," said Kate Hamilton from the Home and School Association. "It's been a sought-after event from the start."

For some of the 310 ticket-holders at the Norwich Community Centre, the highlight of the evening was the (Norpac) prime rib dinner.

"Norpac cooks it for us," Davis noted.

"Flintstones-size servings I would say," Hamilton laughed.

For others it was the silent or live auctions.

"We have 155 items for the live auction this year, and 200-plus silent auction items," said Davis. "The live auction starts about 6:30 and we end at 10... ish."

"We are going to do it," Hamilton smiled. "It's a fundraiser, so you want to support the kids and this community is very tight. Some people here tonight don't even have kids in school - it's a fun night to hang out with your neighbours. It's friendly competition - the auctions are fun."

"It's entertainment," Davis nodded.

"And there is good stuff," said Hamilton. "The items are good quality."

"A lot of these people have donated, they want to see their items go. We also do classroom baskets and they are probably our hottest items," said Davis, recalling a 2017 barbecue basket that went for $1,600-$1,800.

Auction items were donated from the community, from Woodstock to Tillsonburg, but mainly from Norwich Township. Norwich Optimist Club served up the meal, and Otterville firefighters took care of bartending.

In total, the outdoor learning area is expected to have five or six phases.

"We have the amphitheatre - it has logged seating and there is a platform where the teachers can teach, an outdoor chalkboard, and it has landscaping around it," said Davis. "But there are other phases, like a Carolinian forest."

"It's going to be a natural Carolinian zone promoting native perennials, shrubs, trees... in a natural learning environment," said Kate Hamilton, also from the Home and School Association. "It'll be another section of the yard, it's own unique spot."

Davis said $10 per student goes toward class trips. They have purchased iPads and Chromebooks and hope to add more this year.

"So that each class can have 'x' amount to use, because right now they share amongst classes."

Fundraising also supports the music program, Hamilton noted.

"Last year we also raised money for cheer team uniforms," said Davis. "We put in a fill-up station for water bottles. There weren't many trees out in the schoolyard, so we bought trees."

"Fifteen to 20 mature trees," said Hamilton, adding with a smile, "that are all alive and doing well."