AUGUSTA — The Kennebec Valley YMCA Learning Center is getting a new playground.

With help from the crew of popular TV show “Maine Cabin Masters,” the Augusta childcare center’s new play space should be completed by the end of the year.

“The vision is to not only create an outdoor area that … provides opportunity for movement and physical development, but also encourages creativity, confidence and learning,” said Lissa Niederer, the learning center’s director.

The center is hosting a variety of fundraising events throughout the summer, she said, including a Paint Night by Art Party Maine on July 20 and an online athletic clothing fundraiser planned for August.

Niederer said she’s been estimating an overall cost of between $15,000-$20,000, and she said a yard sale and Margaritas restaurant fundraiser has already brought nearly $2,000 to the project.

“Right now we are in planning and fundraising mode, and we’re hoping to do the main part of the building this fall with the help of Learning Center families and Maine Cabin Masters,” she said.


The YMCA will partner with the crew of the DIY Network show — including Chase Morrill and his sister, brother-in-law and best friend — and Niederer said she can’t wait to see how they apply the creativity shown on the show to the new playground.

Sarah Morrill said the Cabin Masters are excited to team up with the YMCA in Augusta, where most of the crew grew up.

“In addition to supporting all the Y does for area families, we hope our part of the project will help instill a love of Maine and the outdoors in the next generation,” Morrill said. “We are happy to give back to such an integral part of the greater Augusta area.”

She said the plan is for the Cabin Masters to build a miniature, simplified version of a cabin, like the ones they build on their show, which will serve as the centerpiece attraction of the new outdoor space.

“We don’t want to build another cookie-cutter playground,” she said. “Children learn through doing, through play and through discovering things about their world, especially the natural world. We want to make a space that enables them to create, imagine, explore and grow.”

The director said the new playground will have a music wall and an area for outdoor art, gardens and climbing structures made from re-purposed materials.


The current playground has a large fenced in area with a sandbox and a small array of plastic slides, toys and climbing structures in need of an upgrade. Niederer said they bring out cars, balls and a variety of other items when they go outside.

She said having a more permanent, creative playground will make a difference in a variety of ways.

“It’s thought that children spend as little as half of the time outdoors than their parents did when they were kids,” Niederer said. “We believe that giving them a play space that will empower them to learn through movement and discovery will get them excited to be outside.”

The upgraded and more-modern playground will also help the YMCA to combat the obesity problem, Niederer said, and further promote the Y’s mission of providing the community with an inspirational environment for the enrichment of all people through social, recreational and learning activities.

“The kids really look forward to their time outside, and hopefully they’ll carry that zeal into their lives outside the Y,” she said.

In addition to monetary donations, the center is looking for supplies like lumber, fencing, paint, tires and a small, wooden boat in good condition. Niederer said they are also looking for community sponsors who would like to be a part of the project, and there is a committee brainstorming fun ways to recognize the many people helping the project come to fruition.


Associate Executive Director Ranae L’Italien said making improvements to the playground is something the Y has wanted to do for a while.

“The playground is a very important piece of learning in early childhood education as it is an extension of the classroom,” she said. “The children are not just playing, they are learning how to explore, take risks, develop fine and gross motor skills, learn healthy habits to last a lifetime and develop social skills.”

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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