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A father and son’s quest to explore all Richmond playgrounds

How many parks in Richmond have you been to?

Jessy Dhillon and his nearly two-year-old son Max are keeping themselves busy this summer with one mission — to explore all elementary school playgrounds in Richmond.

“I’m so fortunate to have the summer months off… We don’t have any big travel plans for this summer,” said Jessy, who works for the school district as a youth worker and a coordinator for the youth basketball league.

“My wife is still working so it’s me and Max during the day. So we wanted to go explore Richmond.”

The duo usually goes to one park a day in the morning. But if Max is feeling up for it, they would go to a second one after naptime. Since starting in early July, they’ve already hit 23 out of the 36 playgrounds on their list.

With just two weeks left before school starts, Jessy thinks they’ll be able to make it.

The review ritual

Earlier this week, the Dhillons gave me a sneak peek of their review process at A.B. Dixon Elementary, one of their favourite playgrounds so far.

The playground stood out for the pair because it has a pool and a toddler play area complete with toddler swings. And the ample amount of shade is also a bonus.

Their review ritual is simple — Max would explore the playground, sometimes stopping to fuel up on strawberries and fish crackers (his favourite snacks) and the pair would go on the swings and slides.

Before leaving each playground, Max would always ask his dad to do one thing.

“He needs me to score on each hoop before we leave,” said Jessy, explaining that Max is still too short to score himself.

And after each visit, Jessy would post their review on Twitter.

“The feedback so far has been good,” he said, noting that some people have been able to discover new parks through his tweets.

Each playground is unique

One thing that makes these playgrounds unique is that elementary schools in Richmond are mostly tucked into neighbourhoods, Jessy explained, which means that these play areas also act as community hubs.

“I think they do a great job of providing play space for not just the elementary kids, but the community that’s within the neighbourhood,” said Jessy.

Although Jessy is familiar with schools in Richmond, he was able to discover unique features in each playground.

“They’re all different. They’re not all the same cookie cutter type playgrounds, especially the new ones,” he said.

Some of these features include the music wall at Quilchena elementary and the mud kitchen at Grauer.

“Max loves the kitchen area. At home, he’s got a kitchen set. So he was just in heaven pretending like he’s cooking stuff,” said Jessy.

After the duo finishes reviewing all elementary school playgrounds Richmond has to offer, they plan to tackle all the play spaces around the city.

“It’ll take lots of time, but our goal is to go around Richmond and let people know about all these cool, free play spaces that Richmond offers,” said Jessy.

He also plans to start a social media page to showcase these spaces beyond his Twitter reviews.

“Hopefully it can be used as a tool for parents/ guardians to access when they are wanting to plan a fun and free activity in the community,” he said.