Life is a party in the Wedgewood Park neighborhood of Woodbury, at least where Kristine Kieland lives.
After school and on weekends, the young residents of Raleigh Court flock to her house for snacks, art projects, dancing and singing. It seems that she has a magical way of getting the kids to do things they might consider chores in their own home — such as pulling weeds in her pink and purple garden, or practicing math.
“There’s something special about her that the kids gravitate toward,” said Rhana Khoury, who lives three houses down.
When Khoury’s son, George, pleaded for a puppy, Kieland said he could borrow hers. Now, George regularly knocks on Kieland’s door to pick up Missy for walks. Missy was even part of George’s Halloween costume: a canine unit police officer.
Even when the going gets tough, Kieland still finds ways to spend time with the neighborhood kids.
The 51-year-old mother of two lost her hair during chemotherapy treatments a few years ago. She celebrated her new look by inviting all of the kids from the block to paint her bald head like an Easter egg. Afterward, they paraded her through the neighborhood, touting their creative talents.
After she recovered, she threw another party — the biggest the neighborhood has seen.
Without Kieland, neighbors say, their street wouldn’t be the same. There wouldn’t be anyone skipping down the street, helping in gardens, rounding up kids to fill a driveway with chalk art.
“My kids are grown now, and I miss that connection,” Kieland said. “I still have my neighborhood children in my life, and I genuinely love them as my own.”