AN ENTIRE community has rallied together to try to save a beloved children’s play centre from closure.
Krazy Playdays, based at Sterling Way, Tilehurst, has been at the centre of the community for children and parents for almost 20 years, but owner Martina Bottini had to make the devastating announcement yesterday (July 15) that the centre would have to close.
Nyler King, centre supervisor, has worked at the indoor play area for 15 years.
She said: “Being a mum myself, I just think Reading doesn’t have any leisure or anywhere for children to go.
“Including this one, there are two play centres – all the others here just disappeared.
“I always had somewhere to go when I was little and children don’t anymore.
“This one is the biggest in Reading – we have people coming here for a chat with their friends, we have a meeting place for people.
“Social services and other organisations use this place also when they want to hold meetings somewhere.
“We hold events for charity and raise money – it is more than just a play centre.”
Nyler said that there are currently around 21 members of staff forming the ‘close knit community’ at the centre who would lose jobs if it closed.
She said: “It would be awful to see it go. We have been trying and trying to save it because we weren’t eligible for the Covid-19 grant to help us.
“My boss has been amazing – we were furloughed but she gave money out of her own pocket to make sure we still got 100 per cent of our pay.
“She really cares – at this place you are not just another employee, we are a close knit family.”
Soon after the announcement, members of the public created a Go Fund Me page, aiming to raise the £100,000 needed to save the centre.
“The place brings something to the whole community,” Nyler said.
“It has been amazing to see the local reaction – I didn’t know this many people cared and it’s been so touching – I sit here reading the messages with tears rolling down my face.”
She said that above all, Krazy Playdays should be saved for the sake of local children.
“Where else can they go?” She asked.
“There is outdoor play – but that’s not always safe. It is safe here; my two-year-old learnt to crawl here and we have so many memories.
“If you take this place away, what will be left?”
Director Martina Bottini said the centre provides “an amazing place and a community service.”
“It is so important for both children and parents,” she said.
“We have employed more than 200 people in the 10 years I’ve owned the place and to hear from them now about how working here made them who they are today is amazing.
“All different age groups of those who used to work here have been in touch – it really is a stepping stone for people.”
The centre also holds quiet time, where it opens for disabled children to have some space alone, and many fundraisers are also held there.
The National Children’s Bureau has called on the government to put children as a third pillar of their recovery strategy, alongside health and the economy.
They have been backed in their campaign by more than 160 organisations, from teaching unions to children’s charities.
The trade body representing British leisure parks, piers and attractions, BALPPA, will be urging MPs in Westminster today (July 16) to listen to concerns.
Mum of one Sharon Fielder set up the fundraiser to save Reading’s Krazy Playdays.
She said: “When Martina said in the Facebook group about the centre closing there was an immediate outpouring of messages.
“I set up a Go Fund Me Page on Tuesday (July 15) and by 11.30pm last night it had 1,000 followers – and there’s even more now.
“As parents we can and should be able to start making our own decisions now. There has to come a point in this pandemic where we decide about our kids.
“This place is so hygienic and safe, and always has been.
“Children have had their worlds turned upside down: with no school, missing friends and being stuck indoors – they need somewhere to have fun.
“This place has activities for children with special educational needs – they and all children need a place to grow their skills safely.
“Based on Reading’s population – if each person donated just 35p that would be more than enough to save us.”
To donate to the Go Fund Me Page, click here.