Jefferson Award Winner creates The Happy Place - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Jefferson Award Winner creates The Happy Place

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MOUNT HOREB (WKOW) -- There's a place in Mount Horeb people can go to find comfort and forget about their sorrows.

It's called The Happy Place and it wouldn't exist without November's Jefferson Award winner, Craig Kittleson.

The garden was created after the community suffered a lot of heartache.

"We had a fourth grade student diagnosed with terminal cancer with a prognosis of less than a year to live," says former principal Ann Fenley. "Our fire chief died that year of a unexpected heart attack. We had a high schooler die of meningitis."

Before fourth grader, Cari Hadac, passed away, she wanted to build a place where kids and families could go to feel happy.

Other students, including Craig's son, joined her on a steering committee..

They came up with the idea of the garden outside the Mount Horeb Intermediate Center and Craig brought it to life.

He donated his time and equipment from his company, Kittleson Landscape.

"We didn't design it, we let the kids design it," he says.

"Craig is a person who has that genuine compassion for others and will go above and beyond, not only with his means, but he has the personality that he can pull in other people.," says Fenley.

Craig got the community to play a part in the construction of The Happy Place in 2010 and people purchased bricks to help fund the project, each with a positive message.

"It's just a place where they can sit and reflect and think about loved ones and what's really important to them," says 5th grade teacher Rob Farnsworth.

It was a labor of love and Craig made sure it was finished in time for Cari to see it.

"We ended up pulling off some super long, 12 to 14 hour shifts to get it done," he says.

The Happy Place has grown over the years and Craig says they hope to continue expanding it, possibly even one day putting in a vegetable garden where kids can learn to grow some of their own food.

"I get choked up about it all the time, just thinking about it. It's really important to me."

"He's a kind of energy, a kind of force that really needs to be recognized," says Fenley. "I think could be a role model for many people who are going to hear this story."

That's what makes Craig Kittleson our Jefferson Award Winner for November.

The Happy Place is open to everyone who wants to visit.

For more information, click here.

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