Welcome to Wendy’s house

Working with children brought Wendy Erickson great joy. - submitted
Working with children brought Wendy Erickson great joy.
— image credit: submitted

Wendy Erickson knew a children’s centre named in honour of her was in the works.

Erickson, who died of cancer two days after her 50th birthday in March, long had a vision for a children’s centre in the valley and worked tirelessly on building literacy skills for young children in her role as community early literacy co-ordinator for School District 79.

The fruits of her passion are going to be realized. SD79 — in conjunction with community partners, — has been working on developing a play and discovery centre for children up to five years old and their parents or caregivers.

The centre will feature interactive play areas where children can laugh and learn through play. The play areas will include a restaurant, fire station/rescue centre, office, tugboat and marina, construction site, store, Coast Salish village, health clinic, fitness centre, art studio and a tree house.

Since it was Erickson’s initiative, her legacy will be honoured with the centre being named Wendy’s House. It’s expected to open in June.

It will be housed in portables located on the old Pioneer Park ball fields along the Trans-Canada Highway and next to Vancouver Island University.

Wendy’s husband Jamie indicated former trustee and community liaison Candace Spilsbury and SD 79 Director of Elementary Education Linda McMenamin visited Wendy a month before she died, showed her drawings of the centre and let her know their plans of naming it after her.

“Although truly honoured to have the centre named for her, Wendy’s greatest joy would be in seeing her dream and vision, all her tireless devotion come to completion,’’ pointed out Jamie.

“As a family we are pleased and honoured to have Wendy recognized for all her never-ending work for the children of the Cowichan Valley.”

“Wendy was all about the kids and finding ways to support their learning in fun and meaningful ways,’’ stated Sheryl Koers, SD79 assistant superintendent, in a news release. “She had a huge impact on the school community and she made a difference for so many children. We are pleased to be working towards making Wendy’s dream a reality.’’

Wendy’s long teaching career in the district included primary classes, special education, learning assistance and reading recovery at Crofton, Mount Brenton and Koksilah Elementarys. She was appointed district co-ordinator in 2004 and besides supporting early learning in primary classrooms, she initiated new learning ventures such as Fun Family Literacy Nights, Ready, Set Learn and the Parents As Literacy Partners program in the schools.

Jamie noted Wendy’s vision has been a dream since she first started on her job and served as SD79 representative on the Island Literacy Committee. She was taken to see Munchkinland, Parksville’s child care centre, during a conference there and knew immediately this was something the valley needed.

“From that day on, every opportunity Wendy had to speak about her dream, she took it,’’ Jamie indicated. “Whether it was a staff meeting, community meetings or speaking with colleagues, it was never far from her mind. Every trip up-island we took, we had to stop in to take one more look to see if they had come with any new ideas.’’

Besides her family, Wendy’s other passion was field hockey. She coached the Frances Kelsey senior girls for several years and it’s expected some recognition of her contribution in that sport will be made in the future.

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