It's been a tough year for Sharon Zeeck's family since an electrical fire all but destroyed their Prospect Heights home, but things are finally looking up.
The family recently moved back to the rebuilt house, Harry Zeeck has a new job and a fabulous backyard will replace the weeds and construction debris there now.
Sharon Zeeck is the winner of the Daily Herald's "Get Your Summer On" contest, winning a full backyard makeover complete with installation. Zeeck won a prize package valued at $20,300.
Coming in second place, and earning prizes from contest sponsors totaling $13,900, is Karlene Fleming, who lives west of Elgin and gives all the credit for redoing a house they bought from foreclosure to her fiance, Todd Muntz.
Winner plans a party
"We love to eat outside," said Sharon Zeeck, "love to sit by an open fire," realizing the irony in the love a fire victim still has for a warm blaze. "We have a half-acre lot and trees. I come home from work, and the first thing I do is go sit outside. On a nice night we can be out there until 10 p.m. It's kind of like camping. My neighbors are the same way; always outside in the summer, talking and having fun."
In fact, Zeeck has purchased an inexpensive fire pit -- positioned far from the house in her devastated back yard. This won't be there long, however. A custom fire pit along with a patio and other amenities crafted from $6,000 worth of Belgard Hardscapes pavers will replace it.
She loved the sketch that contractors suggested when she entered her house in the Daily Herald's contest. "The thing I love the most about it is the brick area for the open fire."
Now Zeeck will work with RYCO Landscaping in Lake in the Hills to draw a plan that company will execute. Besides fire, Zeeck will relax with calming water in her new yard, selecting a $4,000 water feature from Aquascape, St. Charles. NorthWest Lighting and Accents in Mount Prospect will provide $2,500 in lighting. The $1,500 Solaire grill will come from PMA Outdoor Equipment in St. Charles.
And when the heavy work is done, finishing touches will include outdoor furniture retailing for $4,000 from Northwest Metalcraft of Arlington Heights; and $2,000 in plant materials from Knupper Nursery in Palatine. GFS, Binny's Beverage Depot and Two Fat Guys Gourmet Barbecue Sauce also will contribute goodies. The items total $20,300.
"I've never had a nice patio set," Zeeck said, at a loss to describe the upscale furniture she would like. "I would think something comfortable, a set with cushions."
Sharon and Harry Zeeck got a laugh when their yard was declared a finalist the first week of the contest. Harry was reading the Daily Herald's Home & Garden section, saw the sketch and called Sharon to look, saying "This would fit with our house perfectly."
Then he said, "This looks like the back of our house." And of course in the next moment the couple realized it was their house.
"We're so happy to be home, and we're cleaning up. The weeds are so high," said Sharon Zeeck. "I've never won anything. This is the coolest feeling in the world."
And she's already planning a party for all the neighbors and everyone else who helped her family, including the people who will soon create her back yard.
New life for house
It's a good thing that Todd Muntz, Karlene Fleming's fiance, is very handy, because she has won $13,900 of great equipment for her yard, but will be installing it themselves.
And the couple appreciates the prizes to finish their lot because it is more than an acre.
Three years ago they bought the home in Kane County's Elgin Township near Plato Center west of Elgin for a fraction of what it once cost. Muntz, whose company, TRM Exteriors does work such as siding and gutters, had to move quickly when his Realtor told him about the house, and he bought it without Fleming's ever seeing the inside.
He knew it would take him years to get the house in shape, and Fleming cried when she finally walked through it, but the couple was excited about the five bedrooms and four baths for their blended family.
Fleming won a $6,000 hot tub from Midwest Spas in Lake Zurich, $4,000 for furniture from Viking Patio of Barrington, $1,500 in lighting from NorthWest Lighting and Accents, $1,500 worth of plant material from Knupper Nursery, a $500 Solaire grill from PMA Outdoor Equipment in St. Charles and extras from GFS, Binny's and Two Fat Guys Gourmet Barbecue Sauce of McHenry.
"We're ecstatic," Fleming said. "I'm really excited for Todd because he did so much work on this home. Everyone in the family pitched in, but he was the one who knew how to do everything."