Christchurch family of disabled girl overwhelmed by garden makeover

Johannes and Julia Stettner's children Isla,4, Eden,10 months, and Sebastian,5,(on slide) enjoy their new garden.
John Kirk-Anderson

Johannes and Julia Stettner's children Isla,4, Eden,10 months, and Sebastian,5,(on slide) enjoy their new garden.

 A garden makeover brought tears of joy to a Christchurch couple, whose three-year-old daughter suffers from a rare genetic syndrome. 

Johannes and Julia Stettner's daughter Isla was born with Pit Hopkins syndrome, which has caused severe developmental delays and frightening seizures. 

She is unable to walk or talk and has been put on a high fat diet to control her seizures.

On Saturday, the Stettners, Isla and her siblings, Sebastian, 5, and Eden, 10 months, welcomed a team of 60 volunteers to their Redwood home.

Staff from construction company McConnell Dowell gave up their weekend to help the family as part of the company's annual volunteer day.

"It was incredible . . . It was amazing what they could achieve in a day," Johannes Stettner said. 

The Stettners handed over a rough sketch with their ideas for the garden and were then taken by limousine on an outing to the International Antarctic Centre and Willowbank Wildlife Reserve.

Three weeks ago, the couple responded to a request by Smile Dial, a charity that assists families of children with special needs, for families that would like a helping hand.

Plans to landscape their garden had fallen by the wayside, after all their time was committed to caring for Isla, her siblings and working.

"When we bought it [our house] there was nothing, there was never any grass, really it was just a big overgrown jungle, so it was pretty amazing what they achieved in one day," Johannes Stettner said.

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When they arrived back at the property on Saturday afternoon, Stettner said he hardly recognised his own home.

The volunteers had laid new lawn and paths, installed a playground and had a colourful mural pained by a local artist. 

"It means so much, trying to work and juggle the family and find time to do work and tidy the house up at the same time . . . to have that weight taken off my shoulders it really changes everything," Stettner said.

 - Stuff

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