Woman receives award for work with Imagination Station

by: JIM CLARK - Outlook photo: JIM CLARK Leslie Daoust was named humanitarian of the year by the Troutdale Lions for her work in the planning and construction of Imagination Station many years ago.Former Troutdale mayor and Troutdale Lions Club member Paul Thalhofer says when picking humanitarian of the year, “We’re looking for someone who gives unselfishly of herself.” This year, that person was Leslie Daoust of Troutdale.

Thalhofer says Daoust was the driving force behind the installation of East County’s best playground: Imagination Station. But that was in 1994.

“She should have got the award a long time ago, but we didn’t have the award then,” says Thalhofer.

The award was created 12 years ago in honor of former Troutdale Mayor Sam Cox. It is given by the Troutdale Lions Club, a group known for its humanitarianism and community work.

The Troutdale chapter has about 15 members, though membership fluctuates during the year.

To earn the humanitarian award, a person need not be a member of the club. Past recipients have included Thalhofer, active volunteer Edward Ashley and Al Sigala for his work with the Latino community.

Daoust resurfaced on the Lions’ radar in January when Imagination Station was selected in The Outlook’s Readers Choice awards as the best place in East County to take children.

Thalhofer says the Lions Club felt it was time to honor Daoust. “She virtually single-handedly put together a project with 2,000 volunteers,” Thalhofer says. “It’s the most volunteers I’ve seen in Troutdale.”

The colossal wooden play structure was put together in just six days. It has walkways and slides, places to hide and towers. Imagination Station is located at 1900 S.W. Cherry Park Road, Troutdale.

Daoust says she was inspired because when she moved to Troutdale in 1993 she took her two toddlers to a park, and by the time she got the second toddler out of her car seat, the first was done exploring the playground.

Growing up on a farm, full of places to explore and haystacks in which to make forts, Daoust thought children needed something more imaginative. So she walked into her first city council meeting with $5,000 from her grandmother and told the council what she wanted to do.

Daoust says she was a one-woman committee, turning a 20-year project into a nine-month project. She says she faced challenges and a lot of opposition, but her job was to keep the vision. She says there were a million reasons the project shouldn’t have succeeded. But it did.

“The community came through for me,” she says. “I feel that they were the humanitarians. Everybody was a hero.”

Since the construction of Imagination Station, Daoust has been involved in the community in many ways, including serving on the Parks Advisory Committee and raising money for the Ronald McDonald House charities.

Volunteerism is a characteristic Daoust has passed along to her two daughters, Adriana, 23, and Quinci, 20.

“She taught me to have a giving heart,” says Adriana, who has a soft spot for animals and volunteers her time at Multnomah County Animal Services.

Adriana says she’s “extremely proud” of her mom, who now runs her own business in Troutdale, Cosmetic Laser Advantage.

“She’ll be a success at that too,” Thalhofer says.

Thalhofer adds he believes Daoust has shown that “you can start with nothing but an idea and spirit and passion and create something really great.”

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