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Future Walsh County Indoor Play Center receives $50,000 grant

The board for the future play center wants the space to be a technology-free and safe multi-use space where children can play and families can connect with each other.

Walsh County Indoor Play Center.jpg
Walsh County working mothers Allison Muhonen, Amber Osowski, Kristi Olson and Kristina Petersen, are the recipients of a $50,000 Grafton Community Foundation Grant for a play center in Grafton, North Dakota.
Contributed / Amber Osowski
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GRAFTON, N.D. – For four Walsh County mothers, the second time was the charm in securing a $50,000 grant for their shared dream of an indoor community play center.

After competing for the Grafton Community Foundation’s SuperGrant in 2020 and not being chosen as recipients, Amber Osowski, Kristina Petersen, Allison Muhonen and Kristi Olson competed for the grant again this spring and successfully secured $50,000 toward the Future Walsh County Indoor Play Center.

The Grafton Community Foundation SuperGrant is an annual award of up to $50,000 for a project in Grafton, St. Thomas or the immediate surrounding area. The grant is designed to support a wide range of community needs, which can include arts, education, health and emergency services, recreation and preservation.

“We’re just so excited to be able to have a space like this for our kids, and know the community puts their mental health and well being up first where it’s supposed to be,” said Osowski.

Osowski, owner of Rocking Horse Child Care; Petersen, an occupational therapist; and Muhonen and Olson, teachers at Century Elementary, make up the board for the future play center, and dreamed up the idea around three years ago. They want the space to be a technology-free and safe multi-use space where children can play and families can connect.

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“We were just kind of tired of being stuck inside for the 27 months that winter lasts up here, and it just kind of snowballed from there,” said Osowski. “What was really the driving force was we all have little children and we all work with children, so we just saw this huge need.”

The play center will be housed in the Grafton Armory, where the city will host it rent free. The target age range for the play center will be 2 to 12. It will have three climbing structures for different age ranges, multi-use classrooms and family bathrooms.

Russell Carignan, chair of the Grafton Community Foundation advisory committee, said that when the play center board initially competed for the grant in 2020, the project still needed additional planning to get SuperGrant funding.

“When we sent the denial letter to them two years ago, we encouraged them to continue their planning as GCF felt this was a project needed in the community and surrounding area that could reach many families, so we encouraged them to apply again in the future, which they did,” he said. “They didn’t become discouraged not receiving the grant and trudged ahead with their planning, and were awarded the $50,000 grant last week.”

Osowski said they did not apply for the grant in 2021 because they were still working on plans, and came back this spring to win the grant with a commitment from the city to provide space in the Grafton Armory, a start on fundraising efforts and blueprints for the play center.

Agatha Frisby of Prairie Centre Architecture drafted the plans for the space.

“She was able to help us bring this actual space to life by drawing up specific plans and allowing us to see and show others exactly what this space can be,” said Petersen.

Osowski says the financial goal for the play center is to get $182,000 total in grants and donations, and so far, $4,000 has been raised through fundraising and $50,000 has been secured through the SuperGrant. With the building available for use from the city, that money will go to startup costs for the play center, such as purchasing a climbing structure, construction costs and a security system. Osowski said the play center board plans to apply for other grants and host fundraising events in the future to help reach that goal.

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With fundraising ongoing for the play center and the city of Grafton making renovations to the armory, the play center board does not yet have a timeline on when the Walsh County Play Center will open. But with the support of the community, what started as a dream for the four mothers is getting closer to being realized.

“The support our community and surrounding communities have shown us over the past two years has been incredible,” said Petersen. “It has fueled our fires and our passion to keep running with this dream that is starting to look more like a reality now.”

Related Topics: GRAFTON
Ingrid Harbo joined the Grand Forks Herald in September 2021.

Harbo covers Grand Forks region news, and also writes about business in Grand Forks and the surrounding area.

Readers can reach Harbo at 701-780-1124 or iharbo@gfherald.com. Follow her on Twitter @ingridaharbo.
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