Rainbow Preschool children were overjoyed on Saturday when their bushfire-ravaged backyard and play area at Winmalee was finally re-opened.
Before hundreds of people, preschoolers ran through paper ribbon to mark the opening of the backyard, and news presenter Mark Ferguson from Channel 7 unveiled a thank-you tree honouring the many people and businesses who contributed to the $120,000 backyard revamp.
Preschool director and teacher Joan Murray described the old play area as “wonderfully amateurish” and said the new area was “the playground we dreamed of 19 years ago”.
Mrs Murray said the nursery rhyme characters were very popular in the old playground and these had been saved from the fires and placed in the new backyard. A bright pink fairy castle had also returned in a slightly different form.
The playground also features an enormous sandpit with a “river” flowing into it, a bike track, fruit and vegie patch and amphitheatre.
Rebuilding work started on January 6. The Christian non-for-profit organisation Habitat for Humanity lent a hand, and Ken Brown Landscapes brought Mountains designer Ric McConaghy’s ideas to life. Countless other members of the community were also involved in the rebuild, donating time, services and materials.
As if losing the backyard play area wasn’t enough to go through, Mrs Murray was diagnosed with breast cancer in December, and has undergone surgery and six weeks of radiation therapy. Luckily it was caught early, and she was given the all clear earlier this month.
Throughout her treatment Mrs Murray has carried on working at the preschool, which was only shut for six days after the October fires.
Mrs Murray said she was very grateful for the support of all Rainbow Preschool’s staff and parents and the Winmalee community.