ARICHAT: A local business that was forced to close two years ago, made a significant donation to École Beau-Port.
The Stay & Play Café opened in August, 2016 in Lennox Passage, and closed at the end of 2019, according to former owner Tyler Shea, who described it as an “indoor playground.”
“We catered to birthday parties and had regular hours for drop-ins and playdates,” he recalled. “We also offered a music and movement program for children ages 0-5 called Kindermusik.”
Shea said his educational background is in Early Childhood Development and Behaviour Intervention, so the venture “made a lot of sense for me.” He vision was for it to eventually become “more like a family resource centre.”
For the last year-and-a-half it was operating, Shea said the café was open on weekends, while he worked with the Strait regional centre for education.
“It wasn’t a huge money-making business to begin with and I knew that there were plenty of families who may not have accessed it due to financial limitations,” Shea said. “I juggled the business, working full-time, school, life, and I burnt myself out. I was never able to devote 100 per cent of myself to anything, which prevented me from reaching any of my goals and fueled the decline of my mental health.”
A few months ago, Shea and his wife Adelle decided to donate equipment to Ecole Beau-Port in Arichat, and two weeks ago, he and his father moved the soft play equipment to the section of the school building which houses the daycare.
“It consisted of a smaller set of soft play equipment suitable for children ages 0-5, as well as a larger playground structure, suitable for children ages 3-10,” Shea explained. “My father was also a major factor in the decision, since his company actually owns the building we were located in and was always lenient on rent payments whenever we couldn’t afford it. My father is also the one helping me disassemble the equipment and reassemble it in the school, which is big task.”
Shea said his children inspired his decision to make the donation.
“I have two young kids (ages 3 and 6) who loved the Stay & Play and it really did break my heart when we accepted the fact that we wouldn’t be re-opening,” he recalled.
Shea said they are currently disassembling the larger playground equipment so that it can be delivered.
While he knows the pandemic could interrupt his plans, Shea is hoping the area the equipment is located will eventually become a public space.
“My proposal was that if the school could find a space for the equipment and create a family resource center of sorts, that would be free for the community to access, and also be available for the daycare to use, then I would donate it all,” he told The Reporter. “I know that realizing that idea is not immediately doable in the COVID world, but hopefully it remains a focus until it’s able to become a reality. In the meantime, I hope that children inside the school and daycare will have opportunities to use the space whenever they can’t get outside.”
After coming out from a “very dark place” in the last two years with respect to his mental health, Shea regrets that when the café closed, there were no public announcements and acknowledgements, which left people confused.
He added thanks to those who supported café.
“I’d really like to take this opportunity to thank all of the families who did support us while we were operational, whether you were a regular at playdates, or you came to us to host your child’s birthday party, or you joined us for Kindermusik, thank you.”