EXETER, ONT. -- Lorne and Nicole Rogers could hardly believe their eyes when they returned home this weekend, to see their backyard transformed by the hands of their friends and neighbours.

“It was overwhelming. That’s the word that I keep coming back to. It’s just unbelievable,” says Lorne.

A backyard makeover was one of their daughter’s final wishes.

Unfortunately, Shannon Rogers never got to see the new backyard.

The 21-year-old succumbed to a rare form of childhood bone cancer three weeks ago, following a valiant five-year fight.

Shannon Rogers
Shannon Rogers is seen in this undated family photo.

The spirited Shannon wanted a place to enjoy the time she had left with family and friends, and years of trips to the hospital left their backyard less than inviting.

“Five years of cancer treatments. We didn’t have the time to do anything back here. The lawn got mowed. Sometimes the weeds got pulled,” says Nicole, Shannon’s mother.

At the prompting of a family friend, Susan Riddell pulled together a mighty group of friends and neighbours to surprise the Rogers family by completing Shannon’s dream of a new backyard.

With the family away, volunteers completed the transformation in less than a week.

“Knowing that they were going to be able to just come home and sit, and not look at their backyard and say, where do we start because it was overgrown. It was not a priority, and that’s totally understandable. Now they can just sit back here and enjoy it,” says Riddell.

Shannon’s parents say the new backyard means the world to their family, but it’s how it makes them feel that’s just as important.

“To lose her and then come home and realize how amazing our community is and how Shannon touched them. Knowing that people do care, our community is here and they’re around us. Every time we sit back here, we feel that. And that’s going to help with our healing,” says a tearful, Nicole.

Shannon will live on at her family home, not just in pictures and memories, but also under a community-planted magnolia tree, where her ashes will be buried.