By RALPH BARTHOLDT
When Auntie Wheels died four years ago, the space she left became a chasm, unfillable, her friends say, even today.
Before Sarah Kay Broden died at 28 — her nephews called her “Auntie Wheels” because a debilitating disease required she use a wheelchair to get around — she spent a lot of time at local parks watching children play.
“It was like she was living vicariously through them, because they were running around, jumping, doing things she couldn’t do,” Kelly Cottier said.
It was this delight, Sarah’s relish to be among kids, that prompted Cottier to ask the city of Hayden to add a wheelchair-compatible feature at one of its city parks.
The city complied and will dedicate its Stoddard Park playground today at 2 p.m., which will include “Sarah’s swing,” a platform swing made to support a wheelchair.
The swing, which accompanies the recently completed ADA playground, will be the city’s first, Hayden city administrator Brett Boyer said.
“We partnered with her to put that in there,” Boyer said.
Surrounded by neighborhoods, the park, just off of Prairie Avenue west of Ramsey Road in Hayden, needed a place for children, Boyer said.
“There aren’t many ADA accessible swings,” Boyer said. “That will be the city’s first.”
Cottier used social media to raise $2,400 for the project.
“It’s a memorial to her,” said Cottier, who grew up with Sarah’s sister, Cyndi, and worked as a dispatcher with her dad, Alan Broden, who despite a long bout with illness worked 30 years as a city police and sheriff’s office dispatcher before retiring from the sheriff’s office. He died shortly thereafter.
The same disease that took Sarah claimed her dad.
Both displayed an indomitable spirit, Cottier said.
Sarah, who attended elementary school in Hayden, and graduated from Coeur d’alene High, NIC and the University of Idaho with a biology degree, was known, her sister Cyndi said, for her determination, humor and “admiration for the inventor of potpourri, her brutal honesty, her self-deprecating nature and her passion for food.”
Sarah wouldn’t be late for classes at UI because she was hung over, as some of her peers, but “because her wheelchair got stuck in the snow.”
When Sarah died, her acerbic wit and her example as someone who didn’t dwell on negative circumstances had already left a mark like a sock on the arm.
“She was the baby of the family,” Cottier said. “She was very much a part of her dad’s DNA. She was a chip off the old block.”
Sarah’s swing will bear a plaque in her memory.
The children’s park, several years in the making, was paid through Hayden impact fees — $30,000 — and donations from the McIntire family, who pitched in $25,000.