Rick Ham began building a dollhouse 17 years ago as a means to stay connected with his children.
The children would help cut the shingles and glue them into place. As the kids grew and took up other interests, and Ham became preoccupied with work and caring for his ailing mother, the project was placed on hold.
He had always hoped to get back to the dollhouse someday, and thought maybe he could finish it when there were some grandchildren to help him. In 2009, however, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Last year he died.
The dollhouse wouldn’t go undone, however. The Windy Wooders, a woodworking group at Wind Crest Retirement Community — where Rick’s widow Georgina works — had what it took to finish the job.
Judy Thornberry, who has built more than a dozen dollhouses in her time, carefully constructed the interior in sort of a “farmhouse motif” with her husband, Dale, going so far as to put electricity in each of the nine rooms. Jim Bartlett painted the house and finished the shingles, one at a time, and Len Hilgartner constructed a display case. Once complete, the dollhouse was donated to Children’s Hospital Colorado.
Currently residing in the creative play center at the hospital’s Aurora campus, the dollhouse will move back to Highlands Ranch when the new hospital is finished this winter.
“Rick’s request had been that it would go someplace where kids could enjoy it,” said Peter Ritchie, community resources manager at Wind Crest. “We started talking about how they were building a Children’s Hospital right here, so after asking Georgina and getting her blessing, we donated it to them with the stipulation it would come here to this Children’s once it is finished.”
The reaction, when he and Wind Crest resident John Lillie delivered the dollhouse to Children’s, was a heartwarming one, both men said. Each commented on the “oohs” and “ahhs” that came from the mouths of the kids as the house was paraded in and placed on a short, custom table built to the case’s specs so the kids can peer right in.
With one good deed complete, the Windy Wooders’ work appears far from done. As word has gotten out, two other unfinished dollhouses have since been donated to the wood shop, and Judy Thornberry is busy laying flooring in both of them.
And just like Children’s latest addition to its creative play room, the two new houses will most definitely have Thornberry’s signature dog sitting on the porch.