Key figure in Fernhill Park Playground Project succumbing to cancer
By Rachel Ivey
We don’t always know who to thank for the things that make our community what it is. Some fit in so seamlessly or are so vital that it’s hard to imagine ever having been without them. Yet the playground at Fernhill Park is just such a place. Beautiful, functional, fun. But there was a time when it didn’t exist. Making it what it is today was an uphill battle, championed primarily by two women; one of them was Melody Winn, the former owner and lead teacher of Our Place Preschool.
Opened in 1999, Our Place was home to over six hundred children in the 30+ years it was in operation. In childcare, the days can be long and exhausting, no matter how full of joy. It’s impossible to overstate how impressed I am that Melody found the time to undertake the Fernhill Playground project. Talking with her about the multi-year challenge to raise the funds for it, I came away with a small sense of how she managed.
“I have always been a very positive person and have given 200% all of my life…I worked 60 hours a week with the children and it wouldn’t be unusual…to work another 20 hours in the evenings and weekends,” Melody said.
All of the work she and fellow community member Anne Rothert did paid off eight years later as their efforts, (combined with a contribution from the Parks Bureau) raised over $90,000 for the structure. The voices of Melody and Anne in the community attracted helping hands for all the various hurdles, such as design, and meeting city requirements.
Heartbreakingly, Melody has since been forced to change gears. On April 6th last year, she was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given a year to live. Her decision to close Our Place was a devastating one, but necessary.
“I wasn’t able to offer the children all…they deserved and I didn’t want to be around them if I was going to die quickly,” Melody said.
Despite the sudden change of pace, she hasn’t been bored. As we turned the corner into spring, Melody looked forward to a group of former students coming over to make pizza. There, she told her visitors of finishing her volunteer training at Doernbecher Children’s hospital.
“I have to say that my love for children has paid off…I have so many children who come to visit me… they tell me over an over how much I meant to them…I feel good that I was able to touch other people’s lives and it makes me feel like I did right with my time here.”
I can’t think of a more beautiful legacy than a community of happy children and a place we can all watch them play. Come thank Melody Winn in person at a fundraiser and community party at The Spare Room on Sunday, May 22nd from 6pm-9pm. Proceeds will help Melody with travel expenses for treatment.
Rachel Ivey is a mother, owner and operator of Room To Grow Childcare and researcher of all things home and child. She is proud to have her nest and business in the heart of Concordia. For tips, tricks, and advice on thriving with children, please feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org.