Community / Special Needs / Press Release

Pierre and Catherine Boivin to co-chair campaign for $2 million fully-accessible playground

mackay school entrance
Montreal - Thursday, October 28, 2021

The Habilitas Foundation and the English Montreal School Board have unveiled plans for a  $2 million fully-accessible playground  at the Mackay Centre and Philip E. Layton schools in NDG. 

On Thursday, October 28 Pierre Boivin (CEO of Claridge and former President of the Montreal Canadiens) and his daughter Catherine (41, a former student at the Mackay Centre School), were on hand to accept the roles of co-chairs of the fundraising campaign.

“As a former student of the Mackay Centre School, it is an honor and a privilege to partner with my father on this campaign to bring a truly inclusive playground to current and future students of the school,” explains Catherine. “The Mackay Centre played a formative role in my early childhood and allowed me to make my first strides in life with confidence. I am thrilled to be able to contribute to the mission and vision of the Habilitas Foundation for a state-of-the-art school environment that gives every student a fulfilling experience.”

A total of $1 million has already been raised. This includes a cheque of $450,000 from the Fondation Sami Fruits pour les Petits, which was presented Thursday in the presence of students, staff and school board representatives.  

A total of 189 children attend the two schools, the only ones of this kind to offer specialized educational and rehabilitative services in English, serving students from all of Quebec's English-language school boards.

When their schools moved from their old location on Decarie Boulevard in 2018 to this state-of-the-art $30 million facility, the playground was the only piece that wasn’t finished. For the past three years, these students with varied motor, vision, hearing and language impairments have been waiting to enjoy a playground where they might wheel, slide, and swing together. Full plans for the playground, including accessible ramps, swings and slides, will be unveiled and explained.

After more than two years of research, planning and benchmarking, construction is finally scheduled to begin next summer. Each element in the playground design was carefully selected for maximum accessibility and participation, engaging all the senses while integrating and balancing colour, texture, nature, shade, and slope.

“The key part of the planned playground is ‘inclusive,’” explains Principal Irini Margetis. “It will truly give every child in our schools an equal opportunity. The playground will really close the loop, and it will feel great knowing that we’ll be fulfilling their educational and developmental potential.” 

All elementary schools have a playground. Studies have shown that play in school is crucial not only for the development of a child’s physical skills, but also their imagination, coordination, social skills and self-esteem, to name just a few. For Mackay Centre and Philip E. Layton schools, the dream of having a playground that is free of barriers is now within reach – where every child has the opportunity to play; express their creativity; to explore; to engage in activities with peers; to develop physically, socially and emotionally; and to enjoy a unique experience that is a touchstone of childhood. 

Avi, a grade two student in Mackay Centre School, is excited about the opportunities this project brings. Explains his mother Alana: “Avi spends recess time on the sidelines in his wheelchair. With the new playground, he’ll be able to play and have fun like the other children.”

About the Mackay Centre and Philip E. Layton schools

The specialized schools serve children aged four-sixteen with a variety of physical disabilities, including those with motor impairments that limit their motor function, coordination, and mobility; who are Deaf or have hearing loss; who are blind or visually impaired; or have communications disorders that affect their ability to process language and produce speech. Many have a combination of these conditions, as well as medical needs that require additional assistance throughout the day.

The schools work in conjunction with a full team of specialists from the Lethbridge-Layton-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre, who provide on-site therapies to promote the physical development and independence of the children. They can learn to read and write in Braille, navigate their wheelchair using eye-gaze, become adept at ASL (American Sign Language), and learn to walk and ride a bicycle, all within the school’s four walls.

About the Habilitas Foundation

Formerly known as the MAB-Mackay Foundation, the Habilitas Foundation supports the physical rehabilitation needs of the children at Lethbridge-Layton-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre, and in the specialized schools. The foundation’s mission is to help the children reach their full potential in life, and to enjoy a full and happy childhood.

About the English Montreal School Board

With a youth and adult sector population of more than 35,000 students, the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) is the largest English public school board in Quebec. Established on July 1, 1998, when the province created new boards along linguistic lines, the EMSB network consists of 77 schools and centres. For more details, visit the EMSB website at 

For more information

To learn more about the “Every Child Has A Right To Play” campaign:
To see the video: 

About Mackay Centre and Philip E. Layton schools:
About Habilitas Foundation:

Michael J. Cohen
Manager, Marketing and Communications
English Montreal School Board
514-483-7200 ext. 7243

Sean Zikman
Director of Philanthropy
Habilitas Foundation (formerly MAB-Mackay Foundation)
Phone: (514) 234-1234

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