Making life more ‘grand’ in Grand Beach

Tyler Gray (left) serving up rib-eye steaks, corn on the cob, baked potatoes and coleslaw at GrayÕs Boxcar restaurant in Grand Beach. (Submitted Photo By Holly Bochurka)

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Gray’s Boxcar restaurant beefs up a fundraiser to make life better for local kids.

In spite of the balmy and bug free weather, and white sandy beaches, there was at least one well-known beach community that suffered lower numbers of visitors than in the past years. Many residents and cottage owners of Grand Beach feel that it has something to do with the overall infrastructure of the community and decided to do something about it – starting small – with a play structure for the kids.

“We all have children, and it’s important to improve the infrastructure because there’s so many children here. Things have been slow, and there’s down sizing, but there’s still a lot of kids and it won’t be long before there’s even more kids and they need proper facilities,” says lifelong resident and local business owner, Tyler Gray.

Gray would know. He’s the owner and operator of Gray’s Boxcar restaurant, and beach front concessions that include a speciality coffee shop, burger and ice cream bar venues that give local kids steady work opportunities throughout the summer.

“I grew up here, it’s my town,” adds Gray. Love for his community and what happens here is one of the reasons he decided to host a rib eye steak dinner with all the fixings on Aug. 24, and donate 50% of the proceeds to help fund a new play structure for the Grand Beach Community Centre. The evening was a well-planned event, complete with live entertainment of Glen Williams and – of course – hands-on, interactive games for kids of every age.

The fundraiser dinner hosted at the popular Gray’s Boxcar restaurant was a success with over 120 people in attendance; playing, visiting and breaking bread together. “We were sold out and raised $1,600 with the fundraiser to add to another $5,765 in our Grand Beach Community Playground GoFundMe page, but we need at $10,000 in order to apply for grants and have the money to start building,” says Hasch, summer visitor, volunteer, and mom of two year old, Archer Gray.

Tracey Kirby, Playground Committee member, states that the previous play structure at the community center was condemned and removed by the government.

“We are fundraising, and have a quote of $65,000 for our dream play structure,” said Kirby. “We are only here two months out of the year to fundraise.”

She points out that there are always upwards of 100 children every morning at the centre and it is a big gathering place for Grand Beach and Grand Marias residents and visitors. Families in the surrounding communities of Grand Marais and Grand Beach have a vision of an all-inclusive playground at the community centre where it can be of the most use. It would be closer and safer because kids wouldn’t have to travel down any major or busy traffic routes to get there. This is what prompted the development of a committee, with Gray and his partner, Cola Hasch, offering to add some ‘meat’ to the fundraisingefforts.

The Grand Beach Community Centre is the heart of the community and where fond memories continue to be made. Local teens, Ashley, Gabby, Morgan, Jack and Courtenay supervise and work at the club with upwards of a 100 children between the ages of one to 13 years of age, daily. They play interactive games and do a lot of crafts all summer long.

“The play structure would really help with the little kids. They have a very short attention span and can only do chalk and scoops for so long,” said 16-year-old club supervisor Ashley Radlinsky, She added, “creating an activity and timing, we notice a big difference (in age groups).”

Planning the fundraiser for this project has also brought a sometimes divided neighbourhood back together again for an important cause.

“Working as a community, we went to all the retailers and asked for donations. Every single one of them said, ‘Yes, I’ll donate something!’ For me, that’s super cool,” exclaimed Hasch, who fell in love with Grand Beach when first visiting a couple of years ago.

Whether fond memories, or a new experience, Grand Beach has a lot of wonderful summer stories to tell, and new full-time resident, (but lifelong visitor), John Turner, has some colourful tales to tell of his own. He’s so passionate about Grand Beach, he started building a permanent home there three years ago for his family and young sons, Easton and Ryder.

“I wanted to do this because the community is dying, and when there’s nothing for the kids to do, they’ll get into trouble. When I was younger, there were three different arcades and numerous ice-cream shops in town. It’s struggling now,” says Turner. He has a dream and a vision for the future growth of beautiful Grand Beach, but it starts now with the kids.

Donations are being accepted to help Grand Beach reach its goal for the playground.

Visit Grand Beach Community Playground GOFUNDME on Facebook to view the play structure design and to donate. Feel free to share your fondest Grand Beach stories on Gray’s Boxcar Facebook page.

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