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Celia's Rainbow Gardens Continue to Grow

Joanne Winer

January 8th, 2009

When Celia's Rainbow Gardens was first started in October of 1995, one year after the death of 8-year-old Celia Anne Winer, it was part of a dream to help give something back to the community of Quartzsite for all the help they gave our family through some very rough times.

Celia was a miracle baby, born after just 5 1/2 months and weighing only 1 1/4 lbs. (670 grams) in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. She spent the next four months in an incubator, fighting for her life every day and having some ups and downs along the way.

She was finally released when she reached 5 lbs., by this time she was 4 months old. She had a tremendous will to live and this helped her over some very hard hurdles in her early life.

By the time she came to Quartzsite, she was a 5-year-old and much healthier. She loved this town and all her friends at school and around the town that she met through the next few years.

She was often called an "old soul" by those who met her and talked for any length of time. It seemed like sometimes she had the weight of the world on her little shoulders.

She wanted so much to "save" the world, especially the children and wildlife. Her love of nature and her desire to make a difference were the inspiration for Celia's Rainbow Gardens after her death.

When the Gardens was first started, there was nothing in that area of the Town Park but a few trees and lots of scrub bushes. With the help of town workers, the first water was piped into the area to one tap. After we got the trails marked out, we started plantingcacti along them. We only had one water spigot, so we had to walk along the trails with her little red wagon filled with water jugs that we had to keep going back to the tap to refill. It was pretty primitive back then.

Many years have passed since that first year and each year new things have been added by many groups, volunteers, and people who have adopted areas to remember someone they have lost. It has grown considerably since that first year and it has become a real labor of love for everyone who has been involved for such a long time.  Progress has not been as fast as hoped but all good things take time and this is just one place that cannot be rushed because everything that is done comes from the heart.

People who have been going to the Gardens for years have noticed many changes. There are many new display areas, a pavilion that will have displays added soon and most recently, the wall surrounding the fountain at the entrance has been completed, thanks to the Brunet family from Quartzsite (and Colorado).

Celia's portrait in granite is now gracing the entrance stone and the amphitheater is almost finished. More water lines have been added over the years and more will be added as new areas are opened up or worked on. The chapel trail on the upper level as well as the veterans' area have been added to and the miniature Pioneer Village is in the process of being refurbished and repainted.

The fountain at the entrance is being worked on to fill it in and plant around once the pipes and pump are replaced and another solar panel is added (pump and solar panel were stolen years ago).  There is still much work to be done but the dream lives on and new volunteers are taking the place of those who have passed on or moved.

Thanks to all the volunteers and groups like the Rock and Gem club, Historical Society, Master Gardeners, Veterans Association, Red Hats, Cactus Dodgers, and several RV parks which have adopted areas — it has become a true community endeavor, one that is continuing to grow for everyone to enjoy.

One of the biggest supporters of the Gardens since the beginning is the BLM office in Yuma, which has helped over the years with donations of trees and saguaros, cacti, materials needed to make displays, and work sessions to help build areas and plant them. They have made a significant contribution to this enormous effort, and are greatly appreciated.

Everyone who has worked in the Gardens or has helped in some way to either raise funds to further the work there has made a big difference. The Gardens would not have become what it is today without such dedication and support.

You can see the love that has gone into each area where family members are remembered. You can feel the peace and serenity when just sitting on a bench and looking around you. It is a special place, and one that is unique to Quartzsite as far as we know. If you have never been out to see it, please take some time to visit it before you leave town. You will see a part of Quartzsite that you have never seen before — a community and its winter visitors working together to create a beautiful oasis in the middle of the desert.

The Gardens is full of surprises, from the patchwork-quilt like areas that individuals have landscaped to the sounds of the birds, the bunnies running through the washes, the lizards and mice and other critters. It's a great place to walk the trails or sit on a bench and just enjoy the beauty of our desert.