CHESTERMERE – This May, it will have been six years since Rande Mergerenn lost his wife, Karen, to a long battle with cancer.
The Chestermere resident admits that he and his son Mitchell have been through some trying times in the past few years, but said that they are doing well, and are on to their next endeavor in honoring her memory.
This fall, Rande and Mitchell, along with friends and family, will travel to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. There, they will be constructing a playground in a poor neighborhood in the city, all in Karen’s memory.
Mexico is not a new place for Rande and Mitchell, as they have spent time there with family. However, it also holds a special place in their hearts as they spent a year sailing up and down the coast there about a year after Karen passed away.
“Her final wishes were that I retire within a year of her passing and to get that boat we always talked about and go sailing,” Mergerenn said. “Well, we did just that.
“One year to the day I retired, and within six weeks we were living on a sailboat in Mexico.”
Mergerenn said that they had a yearlong adventure, from about July 2007 to July 2008, on their 40-foot sailboat, which they named “FireEscape.”
“We’ll have the memories forever,” he said.
In the spirit of creating even more memories, Mergerenn decided to take on the playground project.
”I got involved with a charitable foundation just as I was leaving Mexico that was right up my alley, that happens to have their headquarters in Calgary,” he said. “Angels for Mexico provides surplus equipment from Canada and the US to fire, police and EMS departments in Mexico, primarily in the Puerto Vallarta area.
“In the last four years we have sent approximately $3-million in supplies to our friends in Mexico.”
Mergerenn said that he has also travelled to Puerto Vallarta to help build two homes for single-parent firefighters there, as well as build two playgrounds in honor of a fallen Calgary firefighter.
“The seed of the idea was planted with me as we were building the first playground,” he said. “I knew I could build one for Karen, and the idea has now grown into a reality.
“This fall, a group of us are going to build the playground in an underprivileged neighborhood.”
Mergerenn said that Karen’s mother, Enid, who lives in Puerto Vallarta, helped choose the spot where the playground will be built. He said that once it is completed, there will be a plaque in place with her name on it.
“Karen was such a part of the Chestermere community, from the country fairs to hockey,” he said. “So many people remember her passion, commitment and spirit, even when she was gravelly ill.
“She was always one to say “OK, let’s do it”, so this is a way to show how much her efforts were appreciated.”
Mergerenn said that the playground is also a way to give back to a community that really needs it.
The playground, which Mergerenn is mostly paying for himself, will cost around $7,500 total. He said that some of the cost to cover it will come from the cost of the vacation package he will set up for anyone who wants to travel down to Mexico and help out.
He said that they have about 14 people willing to go, but are hoping to have 25 to 30 volunteers in total.
In addition, Mergerenn has also organized a St. Patrick’s Day fundraiser, with proceeds going towards the playground project. It will be held on March 17 at the Firefighters Union Hall in Calgary. Tickets are $15 and it is a family event. There will be a live band, snacks, a dance, a small silent auction and a cash bar.
For further information about the project, to donate, or to purchase tickets to the St. Patrick’s Day event, contact Rande at 403-589-1292 or firstname.lastname@example.org.