A lot of people are working on transforming Sharon and Harry Zeeck's backyard into a showplace, thanks to a Daily Herald contest.
Ryan Taheny, president of RYCO Landscaping, even jumped on a Bobcat and a skid steer and did some of the excavating himself.
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"He didn't make the meeting we had planned," said Colin Taheny, vice president of sales. "When he came in at the end of the meeting, he was so dirty. And he said, 'I had a great day.'"
People enjoy digging in and helping the Zeecks, who won a backyard makeover in the Daily Herald's "Get Your Summer On" contest.
The Zeecks have been through a lot -- including a 2011 fire that all but destroyed their Prospect Heights home -- and are very appreciative of everyone who is helping with the project.
"They're doing a fantastic job," Sharon Zeeck said Friday. "These guys work so hard. They haven't stopped. I am shocked at all these people involved pulling this off. When a contractor sends out an email, within two hours everybody responds."
RYCO, based in Lake in the Hills, designed the $20,000 redo of the backyard and is providing much of the labor, but several other vendors also are making major donations.
Construction started Thursday, and within a week or so, the Zeecks will enjoy a Belgard Hardscapes paver patio in the Lafitt pattern in limestone tones. It will wrap around the rear of their house and be connected by steppingstones to a sunken Belgard fire pit.
Other features include an Aquascape pond, lots of landscaping compliments of Knupper and Lurvey, and lighting from Northwest Electric and Upgrade Electric. Eventually the Zeecks will select a patio set from Northwest Metalcraft.
Sharon Zeeck insisted on a firepit, even after her house was devastated by the May 2011 blaze that killed Buddy, the family dog.
"That was electrical," she said. "It didn't have anything to do with a backyard fire. Vincent (her 4-year-old grandson) sits out here with me and he always asks, 'Grandma, will we build a fire tonight?' It's like going camping without packing."
The Zeecks, who share their home with adult children and two grandchildren, lived in a rental house with no yard for a year while their house was rebuilt. When they finally got home last spring they had a yard of weeds, burned trees and shrubs, and broken glass and nails.
This hardship impressed the RYCO staff and the other vendors.
"It's a very exciting project for RYCO to orchestrate," said Colin Taheny, "but without great vendors and suppliers it wouldn't be possible. Everyone is excited to help them at this difficult time."
And Ryan Taheny hopes this project inspires more people to invest in their yards and hire qualified landscapers.
"It's like a part of their house, another room and entertainment area -- cheaper square footage, but it's a better value if it's done right," he said.
Sharon Zeeck didn't tell anyone after she was notified she won the contest, letting them read it a few days later in the Daily Herald's Home & Garden section.
"My father (Ben Saviano of Mount Prospect) woke up at 5 in the morning because he knew we were finalists and the winner would be announced that Sunday," said Sharon Zeeck.
"He knew he couldn't wake my mother (Babe) until 9 a.m., and then she wouldn't let him call me until noon. She knows I'm a night owl."
And no one who's been involved with the construction or the family will be surprised that Zeeck's first concern is throwing a party in her new backyard to thank the neighbors and contractors and everyone who helped get her home back together.
"We have been so busy still trying to get settled," Zeeck said of moving back into their home. "We are really 90 percent done. It feels like the house is going to be complete. It's surreal. And now the yard is going to be complete."