How a 'whack-a-groundhog' contest brought Afton Park residents and team members together

To celebrate news of an early spring from Wiarton Willie, residents and staff play a version of Whac-A-Mole
2/9/2024  - Deron Hamel

Wiarton Willie did not see his shadow when he emerged in front of a crowd of onlookers in Bruce County on Feb. 2, signalling that Ontarians can expect an early spring.

The news from Canada's most famous marmot on Groundhog Day was cause for celebration at Afton Park Place, where the Sarnia long-term care community's residents spent part of the day competing in a “whack-a-groundhog” tournament.

Life enrichment team members set up the game – which was a take on Whac-A-Mole, an arcade game where players attempt to hit a plastic figure resembling a mole as it pops out of one of several holes in a waist-high cabinet with a mallet or baton – and had a friendly tournament.

“The residents competed against each other in a timed challenge to whack the groundhogs as many times as they could,” explains Afton Park Place life enrichment manager Nicole Roegiest.

Aside from residents enjoying the game, the event caught the attention of Afton Park Place's management team members who joined the fun.

“There was so much laughter in the home that management couldn't help but get involved and compete in the challenge with the residents.” Nicole says.

Nicole adds that this is an example of how a simple yet fun activity was able to bring everyone at Afton Park Place together.

“This simple, nostalgic carnival game brought so much fun and excitement to a snowy Friday morning,” she says.

Groundhog Day takes place every year on Feb. 2 in Canada and the U.S. On this day, designated groundhogs – Wiarton Willie in Ontario and Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania – venture outside to look for their shadows.

If they see their shadow, tradition states that spring will come late, and if their shadow does not appear people can expect an early spring.

Both Willie and Phil predicted early springs this year.

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