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'It's not meant to be sad': Prescott Fairy Wonderland Park to be built in remembrance of three children

Ava Christenson, 8, left; Tyler Orpen, 16, middle; Ellery Ennenga, 2, right. The playground will be built in honor of all three who have passed away. Submitted photos1 / 2
Landscape Structures sketched a plan for the Fairy Playground in November 2018. The public has the chance to weigh in on future plans for the park, including individual pods for play areas, on Facebook. Submitted image2 / 2

It is more than a playground being built in Prescott, it is a story.

A story of three young children passing away too soon, of a community coming together in support of hurting families, of parents and friends wanting to remember the lives of the lost for years to come and to give a place for play.

This unique playground, to be built as a life-size fairy garden near Ptacek's IGA grocery store, will not be labeled as a memorial park but will hold the memory of the three children from the Prescott area.

Because of Ava Christenson, the playground will have a whimsical fairyland theme. Christenson died in October 2017 and is one of the children from Prescott who will be remembered in the Fairy Wonderland. She was a smiley 8-year-old who battled leukemia and was featured in the Washington Post for a new immunotherapy treatment.

Her mother, Bethany Christenson, said the playground planning would have been a favorite project for Ava.

"Ava loved planning things and lists and detailing what she was going to do that day," Bethany Christenson said in a recent phone interview. "She would have loved the planning part of this and so I think of that all the time when we are doing this."

Blonde and bright-faced little Ellery Ennenga from Prescott who died at 2 years old in 2015 will also be remembered alongside freckle-faced Christenson.

Alison Ennenga, Ellery's mother, said she couldn't think of a better way for her young daughter to live on in memory.

"When I'm 100 years old, little kids and people are always going to see her name and think 'I wonder who that was'," Alison Ennenga said. "It's not meant to be sad. It's not specifically labeled a memorial park."

Handsome 16-year-old Tyler Orpen, a hard-working and involved student at Prescott High School, will also have a place for remembrance in the playground.

Orpen's love and dedication to children with disabilities will be a major part of planning for the accessible and inclusive playground.

"Tyler's heart was so huge for children with disabilities. He stood up for them," his mother, December Orpen, said. "His heart was just drawn to them, supporting them."

Alongside the three mothers, Mindy Allsop has been a major contributor to the planning and progression of the Fairy Wonderland Park. Allsop's daughter Addyson "Addy" Allsop was best friends with Ava Christenson in school.

Allsop approached Pat Ptacek, owner of Ptacek's grocery store, with the idea of building a playground in December 2017, two months after Ava Christenson passed away.

The play area will be designed in three phases. The public will have the opportunity to give their input as each phase plan becomes available. Some of these phases will be pods consisting of life-size fairy houses, toadstools, log balance beams, acorn seats and much more whimsical play equipment.

Three large storybook fixtures will be a part of the area to give the public a chance to get to know Ellery, Ava and Tyler with a short memorial and photo for each.

Construction of the Fairy Wonderland Garden is a project undertaken by Christenson, Allsop, Orpen and Ennenga's nonprofit group Healing Play, Inc.

All the mothers agreed that the playground will not only serve as a great remembrance of the lost children, but it will be a hub of fun and enjoyment for Prescott and the surrounding communities.

"The community came together so much while they (the children) were alive, it's important to do something for them to help them get through their grief," Orpen said.

Fundraising for the project is currently underway and donations can be made online at www.fairywonderlandpark.org

Other fundraising opportunities include an upcoming Trivia Night at 7 p.m. on May 17 at the Old Ptacek's Event Center in Prescott. More information can be found at eventbrite.com under Trivia in Prescott.

Rachel Helgeson

Rachel Helgeson

(651) 301-7864