0516-NEWS-KEIZER-big-toy-LOGO

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

Money continues to come in for the Big Toy project, but it’s been trickling in.

In a Keizertimes story last August, it was noted $197,400 had been raised for the project, or 47 percent towards the goal of $416,509.80. Fast forward five months and the raised amount has inched up to $205,948.86, an increase of a little more than $8,500. That means 49 percent of the goal, with $210,561 left to raise.

The Big Toy is scheduled to be built at Keizer Rapids Park by community volunteers over a five-day span, from June 10 to 14.

Marion County Commissioner Janet Carlson, who is co-chairing the Community Build Task Force fundraising committee with Richard Walsh, noted efforts to raise money were put on hold until two main things fell into place in November.

“There are a couple of dynamics going on,” Carlson said. “One, the fundraising committee wasn’t doing much while the master planning (for KRP) was going on. Everybody agreed to wait until we know where it is. The other thing that slowed us down was developing the website (www.keizerbigtoy.org). We wanted specific information on the website about the different levels of funding. We didn’t have many fundraising committee meetings until November and December. We took a break on it.”

The Big Toy project initially got rolling in late 2012 and was to be built last September. In part due to funding as well as site location questions, the project got pushed back nine months.

In light of the June timeframe, is the funding a concern?

“It’s a concern for the project,” Carlson said. “It’s not a concern for me because I didn’t take on this job with the idea that it’s my job to raise the money. I’m to give the tools and structure so people on the committee can raise the money. It’s up to them to raise it. I don’t take personal responsibility for raising money. We have identified target groups to reach out to.”

Mark Caillier, general coordinator for the project – city councilor Marlene Quinn is chair of the task force – noted the lack of work done in recent months.

“I don’t think they’ve been doing anything,” Caillier said. “They put things on hold and took a hiatus. They will have to really push. We haven’t sold many components. Am I concerned? No. Bu I want them to be successful in fundraising, selling components and getting grants. I think the fire has caught. They will be doing their thing.

“Some of what they were hearing (last year) was we don’t know where it will be yet,” he added. “Then it was holiday time. They know what their timeline is and are hitting the ground running right now…Folks are thinking we don’t have any time left. We do, but we don’t have any time to waste. We need to push it.”

Walsh noted elements such as site location, design, the website and costs have been figured out and, as such, now is the time to kick things up a notch.

“I think we are finally in a position to go into high gear to reach out to the community for funding and to sign up enough volunteers to build the Big Toy,” Walsh said. “Overall I am very pleased with the work so far and the response of the community. We have already involved more people and raised more money than any other Keizer park project since the creation of Keizer Rapids Park itself. Now that everything for a successful campaign is in place we are now moving into high gear to bring the fundraising and volunteer campaign to the community.”

With the holidays in the mirror, Clarkson also feels things will take off.

“We’ve got all the tools in place,” she said. “Now it’s just a matter of people going out. Now that we’re moving into spring, everyone will go full bore.”

Other aspects are going full bore as well. Caillier expects to clear trees from the orchard site where the Big Toy is being located by next week.

But what happens if the money is not raised by June? Carlson deferred the question to Caillier, who in turn deferred to Walsh and Quinn.

“That’s a real good question,” Caillier said.

Walsh sidestepped the question.

“I am confident Keizer residents and businesses will come through, as they always have and we will have a wonderful Big Toy this summer that we can all enjoy for generations to come,” Walsh said.