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A happy place

Nov 8, 2012


By Starla Pointer
Of the News-Register



Scotty’s Playhouse is a happy place, echoing with laughter and squeals of delight. Children exude enough joy during the two-hour sessions to fill the other 22 hours of the day as well.

If you drive by the indoor play park when it’s closed, listen closely. You might still hear the giggling.

Located at the Nazarene Church on the Hill, the nonprofit indoor playground is open to the community. Admission to daily play sessions is free, although donations are accepted.

The facility can be rented for birthday parties and other events.

Between parties and open play, 600 to 900 children a week visit Scotty’s Playhouse, said Diane Massey, the facility’s manager. “It’s a very busy place,” the retired teacher said.

The bright, high-ceilinged 3,000-square-foot room contains one of the largest indoor play structures in the Northwest. Preschool and elementary-age children can climb, balance, swing and slide on the tall, multiple structure, landing lightly on the cushioned floor.

A separate section caters to younger ones. They can toddle over the rubber matting to a little house or cartoonish tree, where they’ll find slides and other play equipment that suits their size.

Parents must be there while their children are playing. They can sit on the sidelines sipping coffee, reading, catching up on correspondence — or just watching the kids explore and have fun.

“Hey, Monkey, I see you!” Anna Stirrett called as her daughter slid down one of the slides, blonde ponytail flying.

Georgia, 2, and her mother are frequent visitors to Scotty’s Playhouse.

“It’s fun, safe and always positive,” Stirrett said. “The workers are always positive and friendly.”

The playground is staffed by several trained volunteers, according to Debbie Boggs, one of the Monday regulars. All have undergone background checks.

The volunteers make sure the equipment is being used safely and keep track of who’s where. They clean up after each session, and once a month, college students and other volunteers come in to give the whole playground a thorough scrubbing.

Stirrett appreciates the cleanliness, and said both Georgia and her older brother, 6, love Scotty’s Playhouse.

That’s another of the great things about the indoor playground, she said: It has a variety of activities that appeal to various ages.

“It grows with them,” she said.

Stirrett said her family is lucky to live in a family-oriented community. In good weather, her children enjoy the city parks. In the rain, they can choose Scotty’s Playhouse, the Tiny Tots indoor playground at the McMinnville Community Center, or Imagine Play, a business that offers a variety of indoor play opportunities.

“We try to take full advantage of everything,” she said.

Shawn Buller also has learned about the variety of play opportunities in McMinnville since his sons were born. “I love this town because of all the parks,” he said.

He loves Scotty’s Playhouse, too. He brings his boys, 3 1/2 and 13 months, to the indoor play structure a couple times a week.

“My older son can climb everywhere now,” he said, waving to the youngster, who was perched high above him in a lookout bubble. “The little one never leaves the mat in the toddler area. He loves it.”

After a good play session, Buller said, the boys are ready for a nap. But they never turn down a chance to return.

“I think my oldest would live here if I let him,” he said.

Hanna DeMaster said Scotty’s Playhouse is a safe, contained place where she can watch her children play.

Her sons are 4 and 2 1/2, and they’ll have a younger sister in a few weeks. It won’t be long until all three kids are playing on age-appropriate equipment.

“This is our Monday activity,” DeMaster said. “I try to plan something each day to get us out of the house.”

Christina Anderegg started bringing her kids to the indoor playground three years ago. Now 7 and 4, both youngsters love it, she said.

And so does she — so much, in fact, that she’s become one of the volunteers. She comes in every Monday, helping out while her daughter, who’s not yet in school, plays.

“I’m a stay-at-home mom, so this is a good way for me to get out and mingle,” Anderegg said.

Don and Brandi Taylor drive up from Monmouth so their kids can enjoy Scotty’s Playhouse. In fact, the young Taylors ask for a trip to the McMinnville playground, choosing it over other activities.

“It’s a safe environment for my children, a positive, encouraging environment,” Don Taylor said.

He and his wife are hoping to see a similar facility built in their town soon.

“It’s wholesome fun,” he said. “A place they can express themselves and be energetic. They have a chance to be kids.”

The Taylors found out about Scotty’s Playhouse from Bob and Carmen Banke, parents of the indoor playground’s namesake, the late Scott Banke.

Scott was 12 when he died in 2001 after a two-year battle with bone cancer.

In his honor, the Bankes and others who knew Scott founded the See Ya Later Foundation, named for one of the youngster’s favorite phrases. They also spearheaded the creation of the indoor playground at their church.

Scotty’s Playhouse also memorializes the lives of Karina Hargis, Grace Blanchard and Allison Yates. The children are depicted in a mural on one wall: it shows them ascending to heaven, where physical ills no longer will hinder their happy play.

A glass block wall, which separates the play area from the section for parents, honors many other children and adults, as well.

“To my hero, James Floyd Williams,” one block says. “In loving memory of Randy Landgraf,” says another. “Never forgotten — Dwight W. Garland,” “In memory of Nick Krumenacker,” and “In memory of a great man, Chuck Anderson,” others say.

Some of the blocks bear general messages of hope and faith: “To God be the glory,” for instance, and “For all God’s children: Tell them I love them... Love, God.”

Starla Pointer has been writing the weekly “Stopping By” column since 1996. She’s always looking for suggestions. Contact her at 503-687-1263 or spointer@newsregister.com.

IF YOU GO

What: Scotty's Playhouse, an indoor play area open to all youngsters 11 and younger accompanied by parents

Where: Nazarene Church on the Hill, 700 N.W. Hill Road, McMinnville

How much: Free during open play times; party rentals available for a fee

When: School-year hours 10 a.m. to noon Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 3 to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday

You should know: The playhouse is closed when schools are closed due to inclement weather; it's also closed over Thanksgiving, Christmas, the New Year's holiday, Fourth of July and Labor Day weekend.

More information: Questions about the playground or about volunteer activities can be directed to 503-472-8476 or the Scotty's Playhouse link at www.hillchurch.com

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