CRESTON, Iowa — The sounds of the train in town cut through the quietness in Creston most days. It’s the kind of town where even a stranger can become a neighbor quickly.
Angie Van Brunt-Wegscheid and her family know that well.
“I’m just so very, very, very, very, very grateful for all of this community that has come out for us,” Angie told a crowd of community members at McKinley Park.
For the past two years, they’ve worked hard for this: a day to celebrate and open Creston’s first and only dog park.
“I think Creston’s always needed a dog park,” said Emma Hanson, who attended the event.
“We need friends. Our animals need friends,” added a woman who frequents McKinley Park to walk her dog.
These are friends, as Angie’s come to learn, who can get together and make a project so dear to her family come true.
“It’s relieving to have that behind us. It’s very emotional,” she said.
The dog park is named “Lexi’s Puppy Patch”, a space for all people and their dogs — and a place to honor Angie’s daughter, Lexi Rounds.
“I know Lexi is very, very proud of this day,” Angie said.
In the winter of 2020, on Highway 34 just east of Creston, 18-year-old Lexi Rounds was killed in a car crash just four days before her 19th birthday.
Angie was at work when her boss paged her.
“My heart just sank. I just knew. I just knew at that moment and I was like ‘No. No. No. No.’ I just kept saying no. Then, I was paged to HR and I just collapsed to the ground at that time and I was screaming,” said Angie.
“Definitely the worst day of my life too,” said Jeremy Rounds, Lexi’s father. “Things have not been the same since, by any means.”
He’s is still coping, too, after more than two years. But between Jeremy, Angie, and her wife, Lexi’s stepmom, Natasha Van Brunt-Wegscheid, the family picked things up where Lexi left off.
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Lexi, the soccer player, military member and dog lover, was in the process of bringing a dog park to Creston before she was killed.
“This is something Lexi really wanted to do. She didn’t have the ability, as a highschooler, to get it done on her own. To be frank, she getting it done now,” Jeremy said.
“Her story and what happened to her, I feel, and her love for animals is what fueled this,” Angie added.
Not to mention, she also had a love for people.
“She was very much a servant individual,” said Jeremy.
Lexi’s friends know this firsthand.
“She impacted this community a lot… [and impacted] a lot of people,” said family friend Jessie Comstock.
“People knowing that it’s for Lexi, it’ll help her legacy live on forever,” Hanson said.
At the park grand opening, Hanson could feel Lexi’s presence.
“She’d be running around, petting all the dogs. She’d be going crazy. She was always like the fun spirit and loved everybody,” she said.
Young or old, Lexi’s dream has brought together people from all over Creston, and far beyond Iowa.
Lexi's memory motivated her parents to the grand opening day.
“It’s a labor of love for the family,” Comstock said.
It was a day of joy, but also a day of wondering.
“I’m not even sure how to describe it because once it’s completed then it’s like, ‘Now what?’” Jeremy said.
“I’ve had a focus through this all. Let’s get this open. Let’s do this. Let’s do this. Let’s do this. We’re doing it for her and for everybody in the community but it’ll be done,” Angie said.
The construction may be wrapping up, but the community around Lexi and her family is still building.
“Our family’s gotten to know a lot of cool people because of this. Good things come from bad things,” Jeremy said to the guests on opening day.
“I feel like it is a little patch of heaven right here,” Angie said.
Whether people knew Lexi or not, everyone’s welcome and everyone’s a friend in Lexi’s little patch of heaven.
Angie, Jeremy and Natasha said the family will continue to make improvements to the park. They say grants, donations and community members helped make the park possible.
Right now, the family is hoping someone can donate sod for landscaping and agility equipment for dogs. They're also accepting money donations.
You can follow updates on the park and get in touch with the family at the "Lexi's Puppy Patch" Facebook page.