Above: Members of the Port Dover, Waterford, Vittoria, and Simcoe Lions Clubs, along with staff, students, and parents from Lakewood Elementary School, gathered to celebrate the collective success.

Back on Track, Thanks to Lakewood Elementary School and the Norfolk Community

The Todd Eaton Memorial Track in Port Dover is getting back on track, thanks to the commitment and determination of local citizens, community organizations, and a campaign led by Lakewood Public School.

“The track has been very well used over the years, but has exceeded its intended longevity,” explained David Van Laecke, Principal at Lakewood, pointing out that after 22 years, a crumbling surface and gaps in the asphalt foundation have resulted in moss growing in places. “It’s an important community asset, a source of immense pride, and the only track Grand Erie students in the area have access to, so it made perfect sense to enter into a partnership to raise funds to repair it.”

Right: Principal David Van Laecke made the announcement to students that the fundraising goal had been achieved.

The track resurfacing project, however, came with a steep price tag: around $250,000. Luckily, funding commitments from community organizations, Grand Erie District School Board, and Lakewood Public School’s Parent Council got efforts more than half-way there; but, $100,000 was still needed last summer when the school officially kicked off its Back on Track initiative to fundraise the remaining amount.

Last Thursday, during a presentation in the school gymnasium which invited members of the Port Dover, Waterford, Vittoria, and Simcoe Lions Clubs to celebrate their contributions to the fundraiser, the school announced the total goal had been reached.

“Young people are the heart of our communities, which is why this track upgrade is so important,” said Lion Don Tomlinson of the Port Dover Lions Club. “The Lions saw this as the perfect project to support because the track will be well used by students at Lakewood Elementary, and also by the surrounding community.”

The local Lions Clubs raised an incredible $62,000 to contribute to the project’s total, bolstering the overwhelming response from the generous community.

Fundraising is nothing new for Lakewood Public School; its Parent Council has been a mighty force in ensuring the track was maintained over the years, so putting together the Back on Track campaign last summer was a natural extension of the work of its members. The committee put together a comprehensive plan for outreach, engaging with local businesses, citizens, and the Norfolk Community Foundation for support. Students at the school got involved, too, hosting a day of track-and-field activities, raising an impressive $12,000 in a single day as a result. Also instrumental was the Eaton family, continuing their support of the project which commemorates the legacy of Todd Eaton, Lakewood graduate and track athlete for whom the track is named. The track is part of a larger community hub which includes a public library, community and daycare centres, and a nearby arena.

Grand Erie’s commitment to the project echoes the Environment pillar of its Multi-Year Plan, with the goals of improving and upgrading facilities and making the best use of spaces in and on school grounds. It’s also a wonderful fit for the Plan’s Well-Being indicator, working towards environments that are healthy and recognize the well-being of mind, body, emotion, and spirit of students.

“The track promotes physical activity, and that has a positive effect on wellness for students and citizens using it,” said Van Laecke, who looks forward to seeing the restoration of the rubberized 400-metre track to its original condition for future track-and-field meets with area schools.

Repair work on the track will be completed over the summer months, with a hopeful unveiling in time for September.

Photos by Grand Erie Communications

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