Huge, fantastic fundraising news

In the midst of an economic downturn wasn’t the best timing to raise money in Calgary. But, when we started Water for Riley a barrel of oil sold for almost $100 and money flowed with it. Not any more!

We are, therefore, so very grateful to receive news today that one of our grant applications has succeeded. It means we are, suddenly, about half way to our fundraising goal. More importantly, it reinforces a specific message: We are trusted to connect Riley Park’s neighbours who had never collaborated before.

Thanks from the Water for Riley volunteers

The Calgary Foundation was the first money in and made us believe we could do this project. Others also see the value of this project to our wellbeing and community spirit. With one of the inspiring student drinking fountain designs in our Riley Park, we will attract visitors and perhaps temporary sculpture gardens as an economic boost to Kensington. Anything feels possible right now as we celebrate the news.

We’re very grateful to The Calgary Foundation, the first grantor to believe in our vision, and now to the Community Facilities Enhancement Program for supporting the efforts.

Where to from here?

The jury will soon select the student design to be built. With this new and significant donation we can ask a fabricator for the cost to build whichever unique design the jury selects from our student drinking fountain designs. Only then will we know how much more money has to be raised.

The letter from the Government of Alberta congratulated Water for Riley for … well, here’s the letter with the sentiment, which we appreciate.

award letter


Next item: pick the selected design;

After that: find out what it costs to build that design;

In conclusion: raise the balance to construct and install the fountain.

CELEBRATE (sometime soon) coming to Riley Park, a beautiful functional drinking fountain and an outstanding opening ceremony!! Stay tuned.

To participate in Water for Riley, email, or call 403 862 1923.

To donate through the Parks Foundation, click in the button and specify your contribution is for the Water for Riley.donate button

what makes urban parks natural, magical, healthful & healing

Calgary author Mark Milke lists the qualities that make for a magnificent urban park, and Riley Park has them all – except a drinking fountain. Mr. Milke’s suggestion for spending Calgary’s budget surplus: a new park with “a well-designed green space with water fountains, benches and flower beds; add in an assortment of oak, maple, pine and larch trees; do so on city-owned land in the west end…”.

Water for Riley agrees with Mr. Milke that the design fundamentals that create such a beautiful green space includes a drinking fountain.

Here’s excerpts from Mr. Milke’s column on the topic:

Use Surplus for a New Park
‘Calgary Herald’ – 2016-03-19

Take the long view and cre­ate a green space in the west end.
Mark Milke is a Cal­gary au­thor who likes green space.

In theory, of course, one could live without such parks. … City life in such locales is decidedly less pleasant.

But no one with any understanding of how and why urban public parks developed in North America — the late 19th century City Beautiful movement that sought to beautify cities for everyone (rich, poor and middle-class alike) — would wish for only sterile, concrete-and-blacktop metropolises. Such green-free urban settings grate and grind against the natural human desire for life-affirming green additions to city landscapes.
… green grass, flowing fountains, a rainbow’s variety of flowers in spring, benches on which to sit and tall trees to beautify the panorama …
In A Clearing in the Distance, his magnificent biography of the 19th century landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, the main creator of Central Park, Mount Royal Park and others, author Witold Rybczynski writes of a later reaction to Mount Royal by one observer in 1906: “A public park that is convenient and beautiful, and that becomes more and more satisfying each year.”

Rybczynski… described his own wanderings … as “natural and magical; healthful and healing.” …

Think about a legacy that can last for centuries. …

© 2015 Postmedia Network Inc. All rights reserved.

Some of the student designers want to make the future of Riley Park include a beautiful, functional, accessible drinking fountain.

Water for Riley wants to make their legacy come to pass.

To participate in Water for Riley, email or call 403 862 1923.

To donate through the Parks Foundationdonate button, click in the button and specify you are supporting Water for Riley.

Design challenge: connecting community to curriculum

Let’s recap two reasons for a drinking fountain student design challenge. The obvious first reason is to obtain a drinking fountain near the Riley Park children’s playground and band stand.

The second important reason is to create a stronger bond among Riley Park’s neighbours. Water for Riley is a collaborative, community building project. Drinking fountain designs were accepted from ACAD and SAIT students, and comments on the designs from Hillhurst School students and Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Association members. In the hundred+ years that those major Calgary institutions bordered Riley Park, they had never collaborated on a project – until now.

When the Globe and Mail, (Alberta Edition) logo published an article about the few educational institutions where “a community connection is built right into the curriculum” we were pleased to be a community-based connection built into ACAD and SAIT curricula.

The Globe and Mail wrote about this exciting new way that students learn about design, and how they apply that design to making life better for others, and the experience they gain from working in the community with real life clients. As we read it, we thought, hey, Calgary does that too.

Way to go ACAD and SAITWater for Riley is your proud collaborator, especially during SAIT’s centenary year.

To participate in Water for Riley activities, email, or call 403 862 1923.

To contribute to the drinking fountain,donate button click here ⇒

Donations made through the Parks Foundation; specify your donation is for Water for Riley.

Now, here’s the full text of the article:

Building a bet­ter ap­ple slicer
by Simona Chiose, 2015-12-24

McMaster engineering students take on real-world assignments – helping residents of a seniors’ centre – and learn some life lessons.

When engineering students dream about the global problems their skills will solve, designing a better apple slicer is unlikely to make the top of the list.

Yet, that is precisely one of the pedestrian issues that preoccupied hundreds of first-years in an engineering class at McMaster University in Hamilton. Their job seemed simple but, as they learned over the course of the term, it was as difficult as any larger project: to make life easier for the residents of a nursing home in the city.

“We sketched three different designs but they did not work, or they were too complicated,” said Zain ul-Abadin, one of the students in the class. After much trial and error, the group designed a mechanism that does not rely on the strength of aging hands, reversing the usual mechanism and pushing the apple into the blade.

“We tried it many, many times,” Mr. ul-Abadin said.

An increasing number of university programs offer experiential courses, but what makes McMaster’s unusual is that a community connection is built right into the curriculum. Taught by Robert Fleisig, a professor who also works as an engineer, the course has previously taken on the problems of one individual.

One year it was a burn victim with mobility issues, another year a senior with rheumatoid arthritis. For its fourth edition, the course ramped up and partnered with St. Peter’s Residence at Chedoke, a long-term care home. The approximately 200 residents at the home face multiple problems, from not having the muscle power to operate an apple cutter to wanting a door barrier that prevents other residents from wandering into their rooms but is unobtrusive.

“We never picked one specific intervention we wanted the students to work on. If there was an opportunity for innovation and ideas, we wanted to be able to support that,” said Janine Mills, the director of resident care. Ms. Mills visited the class multiple times and allowed small groups of students to meet some of the residents.

As the term progressed, there were many failures and disappointments. Some designs were rejected by residents during a first test run at the home.

“The designs may work from a tech and biology perspective, but users have preferences you don’t know about,” said Monica Salib, who took the course four years ago and is now one of the teaching assistants.

One resident, for example, rejected a barrier that would have to be placed in the room when not in use. “She said: ‘I don’t want anything in my room, my room already has a lot of stuff.’ So they had to think about storage,” Ms. Salib said.

By the end of the term, the student teams had come up with many solutions, from a transparent half-door to one made out of cardboard that can be folded easily.

“At first we wanted to make something cool,” said Patrick Frankiewicz, one of the students who had come up with a folding barrier. “We learned that we could attain something that was functional but not cool.”

The best eight teams presented their final designs at a Dragons’ Den event attended by professors from other departments, nursing home staff and students (the winning team came up with a foldable cane to help a resident get in and out of a car and walk to her wheelchair). And some teams could well see their ideas implemented at the home.

Sandi Mugford is still using a hand-held portable gas pump designed by the 2013 students. As a result of rheumatoid arthritis, Ms. Mugford could no longer use a self-serve gas station. The students’ invention gave her back that independence.

Since she received it, Ms. Mugford has retaped the pump a couple of times but the design was so ingeniously simple that “it’s nothing I can’t do,” she said.

She remains impressed with how much the students learn over one term.

“They’re engineering students; they’re not taking medicine, they have no prior knowledge of the human body except for their own. When you extrapolate that, that’s a huge learning curve,” Ms. Mugford said.

Ms. Salib agrees. Taking the class in the first year prepared her for the teamwork expected in upper years and for life as an engineer, where big problems can be attacked only in small steps.

“As a student, you want to solve everything, you want to feel that you accomplished the mission, but there is only one problem out of many that you can solve,” Ms. Salib said.

“You have to decide, ‘which can I solve?’ That’s the hardest problem.”

© Copyright The Globe and Mail Inc. All Rights Reserved


Design is systems thinking applied to problem-solving

The article below, reproduced from the 10 Mar 2016, Globe and Maillogorefreshed the tired volunteers of Water for Riley like cool water on a hot day. This article cleared away any doubt of the value in a student design challenge. One paragraph of the article in particular boosted the spirits of the Water for Riley volunteers. It is in bold in the middle of the article below.

The article echoes a long-ago discussion with the late Jack Layton, who said: It isn’t about the world of design; it’s about the design of the world. Water for Riley is about both.

What we can learn from the Massachusetts Drawing Act

by Todd Hirsch, Calgary-based chief economist of ATB Financial, author of The Boiling Frog Dilemma: Saving Canada from Economic Decline

In 1869, Massachusetts was facing a serious problem. The state was falling behind economically because of trade with Europe and the importation of what were regarded as superior goods. Furniture, mechanical items, industrial machinery – the quality and design of the domestic goods just couldn’t compare with the imports. Massachusetts’ furniture was, well, ugly.

The solution? Legislators were petitioned by educators and business interests to introduce An Act Related to Free Instruction in Drawing. Known more commonly as the Massachusetts Drawing Act of 1870, it mandated the instruction of creative and technical drawing in schools.

It was one of the first examples of art education – both creative and expressive art, as well as industrial art – to be introduced as part of the broader school curriculum. And while drawing may seem like a trivial concept, it helped revolutionize industrial design and manufacturing in the state. Eventually, it established Massachusetts as a leader in furniture and industrial design.

Drawing. Something as simple as teaching children how to draw, create, explore and invent with a pencil and paper did more to boost the economy of the region than the memorization of the multiplication table or the regurgitation of historical facts.

This isn’t to say that math, history and other subjects are unimportant for future economic growth. They are essential. But combining a mastery of math, social science and literature with drawing – something creative and visual – gave Massachusetts an economic edge.

Today, Canada faces the same problem Massachusetts did 146 years ago. We are falling behind the rest of the world in a number of areas. Some see cost as the problem: Canadian manufacturers simply can’t compete with Mexico, Bangladesh and other countries where labour costs are lower. Some see tariff barriers on imports as the solution. Some call for tax credits and other financial incentives.

While there may be a time and place for government actions, perhaps the Massachusetts Drawing Act provides some guidance for what we really need.

Some of our students might well benefit from drawing lessons. But more broadly, all students could benefit from design lessons. We need the Design Act of 2017, an intentional effort to instill a design emphasis into our education systems.

Good design is really just applying systematic thinking to problem-solving. Usually we think of design in the visual industries: interior design, graphic design, clothing design. These are important industries in Canada, but good design mentality can be applied to all of our major industries.

How can we design systems to extract natural resources in a way that is more efficient and less harmful to the environment? How can Canadian manufacturers design better and more visually appealing consumer goods? How can Canadian architects lead the world in designing more efficient and aesthetically pleasing buildings, pushing the edges of architecture rather than following the Dutch, Danish and Spanish designers a decade or two later?

None of these problems are solved with import tariffs or tax credits. All of them can be solved with good design, but that requires a shift in the way we teach and train our students.

From an early age, children need to have a designer’s mentality infused into the curriculum. This doesn’t mean less math, science or social studies – just the opposite. It means teaching these subjects in a way that encourages the student to solve problems. That’s what good design does.

The failing Massachusetts economy wasn’t solved with import tariffs, tax credits or some wild Buy America scheme. It was solved when educators gave children pencils and paper, and said, “Draw something, create something, design something.”

But the economic success that the Drawing Act brought to the state was not immediate – it took a decade or more to see results. It’s a good lesson – there are no quick fixes to curing our economic woes. It may take some time, but infusing design into our education systems will give our economy an edge. It can become Canada’s special sauce.


Thanks for this heartening article, Mr. Hirsch.

donate button

To participate in Water for Riley, email or call 403 862 1923. To donate through the Parks Foundation, click the button. Specify your donation is for Water for Riley. Tax Receipts are issued.

Engagement and Interaction: two best interim outcomes of water for riley

What are the most fun, interesting aspects of Water for Riley’s project plan so far? Two things: engagement and interaction. The whole project was designed to 1. engage the community, especially students, and 2. be interactive. However; plans have a tendency to stray from their intentions. How has the plan worked? Happily, in this case, the plan exceeded all aspirations.

ACAD students enthusiastically participated in the Water for Riley challenge to submit their designs for the drinking fountain. The 19 designs were then framed as posters and displayed in Hillhurst School and the Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Association (HSCA) building for two weeks each. There are plans for exhibitions in more venues around the community.

The level of engagement and interaction with the poster exhibit has been overwhelming.

Hillhurst School engagement

Hillhurst School students had first viewing of the poster exhibit. School Vice Principal, Elan, arrange for the display in the school hallway, where students passed it several times a day.

Each teacher could use the Water for Riley project and the design posters for grade appropriate learning. As an example of how the teachers engaged the elementary school students, grade six used the exhibit for the critique method of observation and testing opinions:

Grade 6 assignment to use methodology for critique of one design
Grade 6 assignment to use methodology for critique of one design
Grade six students picked a design poster to observe and answer the questions assigned
Grade six students picked a design poster to observe and answer the questions assigned
what the students liked
what the students liked in the designs
what students would liked to have seen in the designs
what students would liked to have seen in the designs
Hillhurst School student comments
Hillhurst School student comments and drinking fountain designs

Hillhurst School student Liam, and his mother Leslie, had a great discussion about the designs and what it would mean to have a drinking fountain in Riley Park.

Liam & Leslie discuss posters
Liam & Leslie discuss posters

Liam recalled the teacher brought the posters to the classroom where students passed them around and discussed them. “It was awesome, especially the animal bowls because dogs need to drink, and people take their dogs to Riley Park,” he said. Although Liam admitted to having one favourite design, if his idea were built it would be “a fountain like a pea shooter.”

Leslie added that when Water for Riley first came to her attention, her reaction was: you mean, there isn’t a drinking fountain there now? “Parks should have drinking fountains,” she said.

Community engagement is ongoing

Next, the exhibit moved to the HSCA where it hung on the wall outside the gym. Everyone, from children in day care to youths in programs, shoppers at the Farmers’ Market, and seniors playing cards, could view the posters .

Community members Fong and her sons Kai and Bo, went to the exhibit at HSCA and carefully considered each design. They thought the drinking fountain was a good idea. “A beautiful design will make Riley Park look nice so more people will visit,” said Bo.

And, Fong said, it was very cool that ordinary people in the neighbourhood took on the task of Water for Riley as volunteers. “Hillhurst Sunnyside is really open to those kinds of ideas and to saying ‘yes’ to ideas.”

But – sometimes the fountain would get dirty and perhaps people would do bad stuff to it. It was important, Kai and Bo decided, to get everyone to take ownership of Riley Park so bad stuff didn’t happen.

Kai and Bo agreed on steps they could take. “Clean it if it’s dirty. We can all do our share to take care of it. If we see someone doing bad stuff, tell them to stop. Call 911 for emergencies.”

Fong, Bo, and Kai discuss the posters
Fong, Bo, and Kai discuss the posters

Soon, they’d agreed on their favourite design, although they each preferred it in different colours.

What else is cool about Water for Riley?

Think about it. Without Water for Riley, the HSCA might have requested the City install a drinking fountain in Riley Park. If the City agreed to the request, Riley Park would have gotten a concrete block fountain of one nozzle, without regard to users’ disabilities, height differences, artistic merit to attract visitors, canine needs, or the other criteria the students considered in their thoughtful comments and designs. Instead, Riley Park will get a water feature that’s beautiful and functional.

To get involved with Water for Riley, call 403 862 1923 or email us. and please donate to our beautiful drinking fountain, whichever design it will be. Click the button to donate through the Parks Foundation, and specify your donation is for Water for Riley.

donate button

ACAD student designs exhibited Feb 8-19, 2016

You’re invited to view the ACAD students’ submissions to the Riley Park public drinking fountain challenge. Tomorrow afternoon the posters are available for public viewing.

The posters hung for the past two weeks in Hillhurst Elementary School, where students and teachers used the exhibit in many learning modules. Their comments show how the exhibit engaged their imaginations about the drinking fountain’s role in the park, the natural environment, and the quality of the park users’ experience.

Not only does the public exhibit showcase ACAD student talent, it also fosters the relationship between the community, the Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Association and ACAD.

Soon, the SAIT students’ designs will also be available. Another valuable relationship fostered. These are the cumulative impacts of the project.

This exhibit is a sneak preview of the designs that not even the jury has yet seen. Come, see the designs, leave comments, and make a donation donate buttonthrough the Parks Foundation. Click the button and specify your donation is in support of the Water for Riley project.

Your invitation:

exhibit open for viewing Feb 8



Location for the Riley Park drinking fountain

Map of location

Late spring or early summer, 2019, we hope to have a beautiful, artistic drinking fountain installed in Riley Park.

Its location is near the heavily used playground, picnic tables and new band stand. It isn’t so near the bandstand as to interfere with concerts. There is enough space around it for other activities.

What do you think?


Be part of Calgary’s public art legacy;
for Riley Park, for you, and for the future.

Donate to make this vision become reality. At the instructions to seller page, specify that your support is for The Water for Riley Project. The Parks Foundation issues tax receipts for donations greater than $10.00.

We invite everyone to participate as a volunteer, fundraiser, donor, sponsor, or any other role. Call 403 862 1923 and leave your contact information.

Seeking jury member to represent the community

We need community representatives on the jury.

It could be you.

We’ve made significant progress towards a drinking fountain for Riley Park. One task is to constitute a jury to select the “winning” design from approximately two dozen submissions.

How exciting are the designs so far? 

Five volunteers attended Alberta College of Art + Design (ACAD) to hear 19 students present their original, creative fountain designs. Our expectations were reasonable. After all, these were students, not professionals or experts. However, the spectacular quality and amazing creative variety blew us away.

Who do we need as a jury member? 

We seek a community resident who understands the needs and sensibility of our community and who uses our wonderful Riley Park.

What’s involved in volunteering as a jury member? 

It’s a three day commitment between 31 March and 31 May, 2016. You will spend one day reviewing and making notes on all the design submissions in preparation for the jury’s meeting in round one.

How will the process work? 

Round one considers the rankings and selects the top three (minimum) to five (maximum) for professional technical feedback from, for example, an engineer and landscape architect at IBI Group. After that review from a technical stand point, IBI Group experts will return the designs with feedback and suggestions.

During round two, the jury will meet to consider that expert technical feedback and use the suggestions to select which design will be built for Riley Park. All submissions will be ranked using a matrix that grades how well the design meets community, historical, environmental needs and other criteria.

How to put your name forward as a potential jury member.

Please send an email to with one paragraph (250 words) explaining the reasons you want to be on the jury and what personal qualities and credentials you would contribute to the decision-making process. The deadline to submit your name, or someone else’s (with their permission please), is Dec. 31, 2015.

How else can you be involved?

We invite everyone to participate as a volunteer organizer, fundraiser, donor, sponsor, or any other role. Contact us

Donations, tax receipts issued, can be made through the Parks Foundation donate buttonCalgary. Click the button and please specify you support Water for Riley.

 logo final

Why is a drinking fountain important for Riley Park?

Background to the project

Our much-loved Riley Park has lots to offer visitors. It also lacks basic facilities like drinking water and toilets in its most heavily used areas near the playground, picnic tables, and new bandstand.

Facilities were identified as an unfunded priority for both the Hillhurst-Sunnyside Community Association and the City of Calgary Parks Department. That means it’s officially known the services are needed, and there’s no public money allocated now or in future budget cycles.

What are the benefits to date?

Once this close-knit community saw a need and opportunity we mobilized around a vision of a unique, functional, public art fountain. A group of committed volunteer residents started an exciting multi-institution collaboration with collective beneficial impacts.

We instituted a SAIT and ACAD student challenge to design a drinking fountain that reflects the heritage values of one of Calgary’s oldest districts, and aesthetic values of Riley Park’s gorgeous flowerbeds, and athletic values of the cricket pitch, playground and pool. Participating students have taken ‘ownership’ of their park and their fountain.

We already see the benefits even before the fountain’s design is selected. All the learning institutions are now engaging with each other and the community for the first time. The designs will be publicly displayed, giving student talent a showcase. IBI Group, formerly a local business until it recently relocated its office, has agreed to donate part of its services to provide engineering oversight. The Calgary Foundation provided the first money in and we’re fundraising for the balance.

How can you be involved?

We invite everyone to participate as a volunteer, fundraiser, donor, sponsor, or any other role. Contact us To donate through donate buttonthe Parks Foundation Calgary, click on the button. Please specify the project you support is Water for Riley.


Students designing drinking fountain for Riley Park

Students astonished and delighted Water for Riley with the variety and creativity of drinking fountain designs.

Monday, Nov. 16, 2015, five members of Water for Riley watched 19 ACAD students present their designs. And we aren’t done yet. More student designs are expected.

Water for Riley community: Sally (This is My City), Connor (Place2Give), Michelle (City of Calgary), Julie (The Calgary Foundation)
Water for Riley community: Sally (This is My City), Connor (Place2Give), Michelle (City of Calgary), Julie (The Calgary Foundation)
Students present their designs to their classmates and instructor, Kerry Harmer
Students present their designs to their classmates and instructor, Kerry Harmer

Any one of the designs we saw would enhance beloved and heavily used Riley Park. We don’t envy the jury of professionals who will have to choose the winning design.

Water for Riley is nurturing compounding, positive spin offs

The students will experience additional constructive feedback on their work, will have exposure for their talent they would not otherwise have, and three neighbouring learning institutions are now collaborating with the community in new ways. The project will end when the fountain is turned on, and the relationships will continue.

Students met with City Parks staff in Riley Park on a September research trip, which informed and inspired their designs.

students & RP sign

students on tree

To help make Water for Riley and the students’ dream become reality, please support the drinking fountain in Riley Park. Donations can be made through the Parks Foundation Calgary. Specify the donation is for Water for Riley.

Email us or phone 403 862 1923 with questions or to volunteer.