Climbing wall to raise awareness for foster care

BELLINGHAM, WASHINGTON—A local café and playground, Perch and Play, is set to unveil a $25,000 augmented climbing wall at their grand re-opening on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, after a month-long renovation project. The wall is one of only five similar walls in the U.S. and the first on the West Coast, according to Augmented Climbing’s website. It was funded by a grant from First Federal Savings and Loan in Bellingham, Washington.

“I’m really excited to see how excited kids are when they see something built just for them,” Kyle Fugier, business manager for Perch and Play, said. “This is not a huge project that was built for some business to make a lot of money, we built this for the kids to enjoy.”

The wall is nine feet high and faces a computer that projects images that interact with climbers as they move. It projects games like Pong or puzzles that players must solve.

The wall is meant to engage older kids as Perch and Play previously catered to children 7 years and younger.

“I’m really excited about this wall because I feel like it combines the technological appeal that children want with being able to have that physical release of energy that they need,” Alex Straus, a play area host at Perch and Play, said.

Perch and Play is owned by Bellingham nonprofit Skookum Kids, an organization with a goal toward repairing the foster care system. Skookum recruits and licenses foster parents around Whatcom County and oversees a house open to foster children just entering care and who are waiting for their social workers homes for them.

Perch and Play closed for four weeks to complete their renovations. Also to be unveiled is an all-new menu and Lego room, among other improvements.  

Perch and Play’s grand re-opening will run from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 7. At 4 p.m., First Federal will present a $25,000 check to Skookum. Happy hour prices on drinks, including alcohol will be offered from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. At 5 p.m., the climbing wall will open for adults only. Those who wish to climb will not be charged extra and Perch and Play’s members will get to climb for free.

When asked about Perch and Play’s role within Skookum Kids, founder Ray Deck III explained he hoped to make Perch and Play the public face of Skookum and the de facto watering hole for foster parents.

“Our other programs are by necessity extremely private,” Deck said. “It can be tough when you can’t tell people where your office is to find the broad base of support that’s required to grow something. Perch and Play gives us a public front door.”

Skookum utilizes Perch and Play’s space to host services and events that don’t otherwise exist in Bellingham, like support groups and trainings, for foster parents.

Deck said he hoped to build all three of Skookum’s programs—Skookum House, Skookum Parents and Perch and Play—and then plant similar suites of programs in rural, chronically underserved communities so communities have the means to provide for their own children.

“That’s what Skookum does,” said Deck. “It becomes the rallying point for a community to do the work of caring for kids.”

Skookum Kids was founded in 2015 by Ray Deck III in Bellingham, Washington. This non-profit organization is dedicated to repairing the foster care system by equipping those already involved and educating those who are not. It is staffed by six full-time and two part-time employees and over 100 volunteers. For more information, visit their website at www.skookumkids.org.