St. Joseph Peace Mission opened the doors to the Nicky Hayden Commons Area for the first time Wednesday, providing the 16 children who live at the Yewell Home for Boys and Hayden Home for Girls an outdoor space they can use for a variety of purposes.
The commons area features a full-length basketball court, a large gazebo, racquetball nets and plenty of grassy space in which to roam, reflect and play.
After opening the Hayden Home for Girls — which provides 24-hour care for those with emotional and behavioral problems — St. Joseph President Paula Yevincy said the board continued looking at the needs of their children and community.
“Now we can meet those needs,” she said. “One of the things we clearly identified when we started to grow this campus was the need for outdoor space for these kids.”
The children who live at both homes are mostly teenagers with varying degrees of need, Yevincy said. When COVID-19 hit, the need for outdoor space was pushed even further up the priority list.
“They need to be able to exercise, they need to be able to have some distance from each other,” she said. “And when their families, or workers, or therapists — whoever comes to visit — are here, we need to be able to have additional safe space for them to be separated from the rest of the kids.”
A gate around the commons area gives the children safe access to the outdoors without feeling trapped behind an opaque fence. Shrubs, trees and rose bushes line the outside of the gate, providing a naturesque, tranquil setting for the children, many of whom might use the outdoor space for therapeutic reasons as well.
The project took a year and a half to complete and included the demolition of three homes that used to occupy the space where the Nicky Hayden Commons Area was developed. With the support of the Hayden family and many others, the outdoor space became a reality.
From the Hayden Home back porch runs a new concrete sidewalk to the area. Additions such as a bench swing set and some outdoor remedies to help with mental health are still in the works.
At Wednesday’s opening, the children who reside at the homes were kept plenty busy playing basketball, drawing with sidewalk chalk, and visiting with those who attended the grand opening. Yevincy said the kids had been excited all day for the event.
“It’s just really special for Owensboro anytime we can do something for kids and families and just keep Nicky’s legacy alive,” Yevincy said. “I think that just warms everybody’s heart, especially during hard times. There are still good things that are happening and can happen. We can still reach out and help people who are already in crisis before they get to another crisis.”