Two Chestermere residents, a father-son team; recently returned from a heartfelt trip to Mexico where they refurbished and rebuilt a playground for impoverished children in memory of their wife and mother.
Rande Mergerenn and his 16 year old son Mitchell Marjoram of Chestermere, along with 22 other volunteers from the Calgary area spent a week at the end of September in an isolated community called Saint Nicholas, just outside of Puerto Vallarta. But they weren’t there on vacation, instead the group of friends worked hard rebuilding a playground that came from a NW Calgary Catholic School and was shipped south to be given a new life.
The dedicated group are all volunteers with Angels for Mexico, a non-profit foundation that was started in 2007 with an aim to support the efforts of Emergency Services in Mexico. The foundation has also been involved in organizing old playground equipment from Calgary to be donated and shipped thousands of kilometers to impoverished parts of Mexico that would never otherwise have this type of play equipment.
Although Rande had participated in this type of initiative through Angels for Mexico before, none was as special as this particular trip. In 2006, Rande and Mitchell lost their wife and mother to cancer; and although Karen Marjoram is dearly missed, her incredibly special spirit and giving nature lives on in these two men.
The playground that the team spent the week building was done so to honor the memory of Mitchell’s mother, Karen. Karen loved Mexico, it was a second home to the family for most of their lives and Mitchell spent much of his time growing up there. She was also a very community minded person, doing anything to help out a friend or neighbour. This is why they felt it would be a perfect way to honor and remember the woman who had such a generous heart and love for the region.
A plaque was made by the Mexican people and placed on a wall at the new park to remember the woman that both men loved so much. It was revealed at the opening ceremonies, which saw dozens of children and families gather for the ribbon cutting. Mitchell remembers the most memorable moment of the trip, “When all the kids hit the playground for the first time, that was pretty cool” shares Mitchell.
What makes this even more special is that it was obvious to the family from the beginning that Karen was present during this entire process, right from when the site was first chosen a couple of years ago.
Karen always had an attraction to butterflies, so when her mother, who lives in Mexico visited 3 different possible sites for the playground, she knew she had found the one when she discovered the empty lot filled with butterflies dancing in the sunshine like a sign from heaven. Likewise, several butterflies were present on that same site the entire week that the group built the playground and even more astonishing – one giant butterfly made its way into Mitchell’s hotel room and stayed for three days, finally disappearing on the last day.
“I know she was there, and she was happy” says Mitchell of his mother’s presence during the week spent in Mexico. As a final added touch before leaving the playground to be enjoyed by so many children, each member of the volunteer crew hand painted a small butterfly onto the equipment as one more way to remember why they were there and to honor their daughter, wife, mother and friend.
At the ceremony, where the excited children were finally allowed to scamper all over the new playground, the volunteers each received a handmade personalized thank you letter from youth in the community. “It was pretty incredible, to receive something from them saying thank you” says Melanie Reeves, another volunteer for Angels for Mexico, “The note said that they were happy before, but that they are really happy now” she shares with a smile.
What’s next for these men? Well, they are already planning another trip in 2015 to build yet another playground in Mexico. “We will look at other areas within Mexico where there is a need,” says Rande, “and maybe even eventually move on to other parts of the world.”
Thanks to Rande, Mitchell and two dozen other noble volunteers, all of the children in the remote area of Saint Nicholas, Mexico are amongst angels and butterflies having a ton of fun playing on their new playground.