Unattractive yard now a thing of pride
Life has certainly changed and improved for Penny Kroes of Hoffman Estates and her boyfriend, Craig, since she won the Daily Herald's 2019 Get Your Summer On contest.
Thanks to generous sponsors of the contest who gave her an outdoor furniture, landscaping and party package valued at more than $11,000, Kroes' backyard now bears little or no resemblance to the ramshackle plot they had endured for years.
"It is awesome and unbelievable," Kroes said. "My backyard looks so much bigger than it did before and it flows beautifully. Those guys did an incredible job and even stacked the good, flat stones I was no longer using at the back of my lot so I could use them later if I want.
"Now I can't wait for spring to come so I can really enjoy it all," she added. "The stone blocks are situated beautifully in my yard and the big pine tree that they left in place adds a Northwoods-y feel. It is now very inviting with the comfortable chairs and firepit from Northwest Metalcraft and the great teak dining table from Lurvey Home & Garden Center that folds up into a small unit when not in use.
"There is no way that I would have been able to accomplish all of this on my own. Now we can actually enjoy the yard. The guys from Land Escapes really knocked it out of the park, so to speak! I was so happy when they were done that I was crying!
"If I could only win one thing in my life, this was the one to win," Kroes said.
And she still has a cooking class party for up to 20 guests at the Weber Grill Academy to look forward to in the future.
Kroes is a nurse at Alexian Brothers Hospital in Elk Grove Village and her boyfriend is an independent contractor truck driver.
"I had an aboveground pool with stones surrounding the pool. The pool fell down and shortly after, I was diagnosed with cancer," Kroes wrote when entering the Daily Herald's annual contest. "I was able to beat my cancer with the support of my family. Unfortunately, my backyard suffered. I would love to have a backyard to entertain my family."
Penny has lived in her home for 29 years and about half of that time has been tumultuous. Her dad was diagnosed with cancer and passed away. Soon after his diagnosis came one of lymphoma for Penny. She underwent seven months of chemotherapy and survived.
But that was not the end of the family cancer news. Her mother got a cancer diagnosis and survived. Her brother got the dreadful news, too, but did not survive.
And now her significant other, Craig, is facing cancer, too.
"Throughout all of the turmoil in my life, I have seen my yard as my peaceful place -- the place where I can escape and clear my mind while pulling weeds," Penny explained when she heard she had won. "It is my piece of paradise, but the place in the center of the yard where I once had an aboveground pool is truly an eyesore."
But now it is a paradise once more.
Grand prize package
• $2,500 landscape package from Land Escapes, which includes design consultation, materials and labor.
• Seven-piece Fold & Store dining set with cushions and cover from Lurvey's Home & Garden Center (valued at $1,299).
• Four lounge chairs with cushions and fire pit from Northwest Metalcraft (valued at $4,100).
• $2,500 private Weber Grill Academy class in backyard for an interactive dining experience with a chef providing recipes, cooking lessons and dinner for up to 20 guests.
• $100 Binny's Beverage Depot gift card.
• $100 Jewel Osco gift card.
• $200 gift card from Lurveys Garden Center.
The second-place winners were Hope and Ron Sohn of Arlington Heights. Hope teaches junior high and Ron is a senior business analyst. They won a teak table and six chairs, valued at $1,000, from Northwest Metalcraft in Arlington Heights.
"We are very excited because we have never won anything," Sohn said when she won. "We haven't done anything to the outside of our home because we have been spending our time and money renovating the interior of our home since we moved in 18 years ago."
Finally, Tim Edwards of Des Plaines won the third-place prize of colorful vintage-look metal chairs and an occasional table from Northwest Metalcraft.