Forever at play…

Mon père Gérald Gagné, en 2009

I was born in Montréal, but my parents always dreamed about being out in the countryside. My dad worked for a company on rue du Parc in Montréal. He wanted to settle down in the country for what he called his “later years.” But one day his boss asked him, “Gérald, what are you waiting for? Why don’t you just make your dream come true now?” What a great idea!

So he took a job as a plant manager in Bécancour. I was 5 years old when we moved. And we all rolled up our sleeves and renovated the house top to bottom …oh yes, the kids helped too! And a few years later, he built us a huge wooden triple swing. We didn’t know it at the time but my father had created just the first in what would become a long line of outdoor playground equipment.

Notre balançoire de bois, telle que je m’en souviens.
Notre famille en 1983: ma mère France et mon père Gérald, puis les enfants: Martin, José, Magali, Olivier, et moi.
Voici le tout premier logo Go-Élan. À l’époque, ça se faisait au crayon!

At the end of 1983, the company my dad worked for moved to Ontario for political reasons. A previously-flourishing enterprise was suddenly gone, leaving an empty building with no equipment and no employees…

But he loved being out in that region, and his inner entrepreneur awoke. The way forward took shape. He bought the now-abandoned building, invested in the necessary equipment, hired many of his former employees… and he founded Go-Élan. That was in June 1985.

Quand je disais que tout le monde participe dans les projets de famille: les trois petits dans un catalogue en 1987.
Elle, c’est ma soeur Magali, maintenant DG chez Go-Élan! et Catalogue couleur, Volume 1
Michel en 1987, directeur de production.

Dad did everything, and he was self-taught. But he needed help in dealing with the many challenges of taking the products to market, and rapidly went in search of someone to help with production. That turned out to be designer Michel Fortier, who also turned out to become my husband several years later!

I joined the company in 1997. After 9 years in Montréal, a combination of circumstances brought me back to brought me back to the town where I grew up and I settled down with the two most beautiful designs of my life, Christyne and Mylène. They’ve brought me so much joy and they do to this day!

 Eh oui, mes deux filles sont rendues grandes maintenant...
Vestige d’une ancienne époque: le tout premier catalogue, dessiné à la main, photocopié! C’était du travail monter ça! Je me souviens, c’est ma mère qui assemblait les pages. En 1985, nos structures étaient majoritairement en bois, ce qui était le matériel utilisé à l’époque.Michel et moi, un des beaux moments lors de nos escapades de week-end! Cette fois-là à Trois-Pistoles! 3h30 de Bécancour

Assigned to administrative duties, my father taught me the basics of running an SME: service, sales, suppliers, design, projects…I learned it all, I fell in love with it, and I was hooked.

One thing I especially noticed and found quite amazing: how safety was at the very heart of their concern. This was even before the establishment of Canadian safety standards for playgrounds in 1990 (before then, there weren’t any). My father and Michel laid down their own internal standards for quality, strength and durability of the equipment they built. When the public standards appeared, they were easy to meet (and actually, to exceed!).

I remember them saying that they built their playgrounds “like good family men.” That way of putting it made a mark on me, and I share that value. Lots of things have changed at Go-Élan since 1985. All those years have brought a constant evolution in materials and processes. The little plant we started with has grown and it’s full of new machines, etc. The company my dad started has gone through a lot of stages.

In 2010, Michel and I bought the business, allowing my dad to take a well-deserved retirement.

We are passionate about what we do: our playstructures, our clients, our staff and every single Go-Élan playground. One of my joys in life is to go out on the weekends to try out the parks that we’ve co-created with our clients (and sometimes they’re a long way away!) I want to see them and touch them, even try them out and… yes, have a little fun, too. It’s in those moments when I can actually “see” the work done by our staff. And that’s when my heart swells with pride.

On behalf of all of us at Go-Élan, we would love for you to join our family. Your story will become our story too.