Beloved child honoured with opening of beautiful new play area in NWR
© Derek Montague photo
Members of Zachary Riche’s family — Ralph Riche, Shania Riche, Helena Riche, Kaleb Riche, and Aiden Riche — pose in front of the new playground.
Family and friends recently came together to remember Zachary Riche in a big way — dedicating a state-of-the-art playground in his memory.
“He loved the playground. Actually, before he passed away, we got a major piece installed and he did play on that, pretty much daily,” says Zachary’s Aunt, Helen Riche.
“It’s been a really tough year…but all in all, we were blessed to have him for the time that we did and he couldn’t continue life suffering the way he was.”
Zachary was just 12 years old when he passed away in 2012 from complications caused by his cardiomyopathy. At the time of his death, Zachary was in a Toronto hospital, where his family was hoping he could get a heart transplant.
The passing of Zachary has been very difficult on his family. But having the playground named after the young boy will help them move on in a positive way.
Despite suffering from a genetic heart disease, family members say Zachary was a fun, lovable, outgoing boy, who enjoyed rough housing with his siblings and spending time outdoors.
In fact, one of his favourite activities was playing on Lake Melville School’s playground.
When Zachary wasn’t on the playground, he was feeding his love of wrestling, said his aunt.
“He enjoyed watching wrestling on TV and, like a lot of other youngsters, wanted to imitate the moves that he learned. He was a huge wrestling fan. If he wasn’t watching wrestling, he was talking about it.”
Naming the playground after Zachary couldn’t have come at a better time. The playground has undergone a transformation the last couple of years thanks to a committed School Council — which Riche and other parents are a part of — who wanted a safe, fun place for their kids to play on.
The playground is now surrounded by colourful, state-of-the-art playground equipment. Gone are the days when the field out by Lake Melville School was surrounded by old infrastructure, including a notorious teeter-totter that was missing some handles.
‘They’re using it’
Barry Flynn, Lake Melville School’s principal, is relieved to finally see the playground rejuvenated after all these years.
“There’s no comparison,” he said. “The playground, when I came here, was a conglomerate of dilapidated structures — it was quite dangerous. Kids were getting hurt on it, clothes were being torn, there were rocks on the ground. It was an awful state.”
Although Flynn noticed that the playground needed work, other important projects and renovations took priority. Flynn says that, for him, improving the playground with new equipment became a focus around seven years ago.
“The playground has always been in the back of my mind,” says Flynn. “I’m absolutely convinced that our children these days live a very passive lifestyle, tied to virtual reality…and I don’t think they’re getting enough play.
“To me it’s logical: give the infrastructure to where children spend most of their time, which is in school. Put it right next to the door and they will use it and guess what? They’re using it.”
Flynn, like everyone else in the community, remembers Zachary fondly, and believes that naming the playground after him is a logical decision.
“He was an important part of our school, I taught him personally,” says Flynn.
“He was a boy who had tremendous physical challenges but…he was always smiling, very pleasant to be around. Zachary was very well liked at the school. And I must say, I could not think of a better child to have named on that sign out there.”
The process of building a new playground was an expensive and timely one. Luckily, there were many sponsors who helped out along the way. The estimated value of the equipment and work put into the playground is $700,000. But it’s hard to come up with an exact figure, because many businesses and organizations donated time and labour.
For the School Council, and the entire community, the hard work and dedication paid off in a big way. Riche says her nephew would have been thrilled with the end result.
“It’s been an emotional roller coaster right from the start,” she says. “It was really nice to see his sister cut the ribbon because we know that, if Zachary was still with us today, he would have been proud to call that his playground.”