Marvelous Maverick’s Adventureland at the Village at Indian Springs was dedicated on Saturday, June 15 in memory of Maverick Christopher Sundeen of Forsyth, who passed away suddenly on Oct. 23, 2018 after he came home from having his tonsils out.
About 300 people, many of them children, shared the June day as they gathered to dedicate the multiple sections of the playground to the lively two-year-old boy who inspired it. Maverick, son of Chris and Natalie Sundeen, had turned 2 just a month before. He loved being outside with his dad, working in the yard and playing with tractors. The playground dedication was on Father’s Day weekend.
“Maverick loved Jesus,” said Natalie at the dedication. “We talked about Jesus every night. He prayed, in his sweet 2-year-old voice, ‘Dear Jesus, I love you Jesus. Thank you Jesus. Amen.’”
“I don’t think I can beat Maverick,” said Rev. Benny Tate when he took the microphone to offer a prayer before the ribbon cutting. “When we can’t trace Your hand, we can trust Your heart… Maverick will live on with us… It will be a reminder every time we come here.”
The new playground complex is at the back of the Indian Springs Botanical Gardens. It is best accessed by parking in the Village at Indian Springs Amphitheater lot. Frankie Willis, owner of the Village at Indian Springs, said that she had thought of adding a playground to the Gardens for a while and that Maverick’s tragic death was the impetus to build the playground for children to enjoy and to honor little Maverick.
“This is a great celebration of life,” said Willis. “He was only here a short time, but he brought such joy.”
Willis built the playground complex on a grand scale. She thanked the many employees and volunteers who worked to finish it and who contributed to the dedication. Maverick’s Marvelous Adventureland is a covered playground based on John Deere tractors, wagons and other outdoor equipment that little boys especially love. There are swings, slides and lots of things to climb. Down the hill a little way is Darling Dale and Curious Crew’s Playpen. It is filled with tables, chairs and toys geared toward toddlers and is named for Maverick’s younger brothers. Crew is expected to arrive in about September.
Up the hill is the playhouse built as a replica of the famed Wigwam Hotel that stood in Indian Springs during its heyday as a resort. Willis said that before it burned, the Wigwam was the largest wooden structure of its time in the 1890’s. It advertised 140 furnished rooms. The playhouse is called Charming Channing’s Princess Paradise. Willis said it was inspired by Maverick’s big sister, Channing, who asked, upon hearing about the playground based on tractors and heavy equipment, if it was to be just for boys.
The gazebo next to the playhouse holds a huge sandbox. The area between Adventureland and the Playpen is a splash pad. The sprays were turned on after the ribbon cutting, and there were children ready to cool off in the water. The playground and the Gardens in Indian Springs are all free to enjoy. Willis said she hopes the Gardens will also be an educational experience. They are laid out to represent the seven continents, with plants and art representative of the continents in their designated areas. In May all sixth graders at Butts County’s Henderson Middle School were treated to a tour of the Gardens, Indian Springs Museum and the Indian Springs Historic Hotel as well as a taste of Indian Springs mineral water for a geography, history, social studies and science lesson.
“Maverick was a special little boy. This is tough with Father’s Day,” said Bill Fears, who serves as Judge in the Towaliga District Superior Court, which includes Monroe, Lamar and Butts counties. He said Maverick was a little mischievous and “all boy,” loving to be outside with his dad and his golden retriever and following Channing’s every step. He said Maverick loved swimming and would jump in a pool at any opportunity and loved getting ice cream at his grandparents’ house.
“We’ve been through the valley of the shadow of death. I don’t think Maverick would come back,” said Natalie. “But this is a glimpse of what happens when people come together. Thank you so much for coming today.”