Ken Meade looked on as young children jumped, climbed, pedaled and rolled around a playground Wednesday morning, bringing up tears and fond memories of his wife, Alice.
Meade donated the funds for Alice’s Wonderland, named after his late wife, which opened two years ago as part of Wirtzie’s Child Development Center at Benevilla in Surprise.
“It’s good to see the kids actually enjoying it,” Meade said.
The outdoor play area has a splash pad to give children a fun way to cool off in the summer, a small hill they love to roll down, a fantasy tree house, a huge sand box, and several other play items.
His visit to the playground this week was Meade’s first time seeing children playing in the area.
Meade donated $250,000 for the playground, for which Benevilla president Michelle Dionisio said the staff and children are thankful.
“We’re so grateful for their support,” Dionisio said, adding that the “generations of support” offered by Meade’s company, Ken Meade Realty, is great for the whole community.
“It’s really one of a kind, it’s wonderful to have that in this community,” Dionisio said of the playground structure.
Meade, who opened his realty company in the West Valley many years ago, has long since been involved both personally and through the company making donations to various organizations.
“I think the people here appreciate it,” Meade said.
Meade said he remembers getting involved in Benevilla when it first started as Interfaith, and when he heard they were making a move to a new facility in 2009, he wanted to donate money to the proposed children’s center.
Meade’s wife, Alice, died in 2007, after he had spent seven years taking care of her after an earlier stroke. He fondly remembers her love for children.
“I just thought that was something she probably would have felt good about,” Meade said. “I think she made the sacrifice for me, and this is the least I could do for her.”
The couple was married for 54 years, and Meade said even talking about her is difficult for him because he still misses her so much.
“It’s very emotional,” Meade said. “I’m sure if she could get down and see this, she’d be very happy.”
“Actually, she was the perfect wife,” Meade said, saying not many women would let their husband start a company when they were close to retirement age. “She added that homey touch to the company.”
Steve Meade, Ken’s son, said it’s nice to know his mother is remembered through the playground, and thinks she would be humbled, flattered and maybe a little bit embarrassed by the attention.
“She was pretty modest,” Steve Meade said. Alice was a “big favorite” with her grandchildren.
The playground and child development center allows the seniors in Benevilla’s adult day care center to interact with the young children, just as Alice did with her grandchildren, Dionisio said.
“I think it’s great, it was fun going out to play with the kids,” Steve Meade said.
Steve Meade said his father started charity donations because the company had great support from the community, so it became important to him to get involved and give back.
“We did so well and we’ve always felt that the community should benefit, too,” Ken Meade said.