NORTH SAANICH -- Lorraine and Dennis are walking hand-in-hand along the trail near their home, joking that this was not part of their retirement plans.

“We thought we would have so many kids they could each keep us for a month; we’d just go from kid to kid,” Lorraine laughs. “So with 11, we’d only have one month we’d have to fund on our own!”

The plan was a joke. The 11 kids wasn’t. Now Lorraine and Dennis say their family includes 55 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.

“Each one of them is the most incredible human being,” Lorraine says, before laughing. “We didn’t get any duds!”

They were happy to help support the youngest ones during the start of the pandemic.

“That was a scary time,” Lorraine says. “All of a sudden they couldn’t see their friends, they couldn’t go anywhere.”

So Lorraine and Dennis invited them to create a place they could go, where anything was possible.

Dennis started building supernatural structures from discarded wood and moss, while Lorraine and about 30 of the children started making little fairies to live in them.

“It was magical!” Lorraine recalls with a smile. “[The kids] would get completely into it and the anxiety disappeared.”

They ended up creating 30 to 40 structures inhabited by countless creatures: from Gnome Hotels (“Costs two dragon scales per night”), to Sweet Shoppes (“Featuring enchanted owl delivery service”), to General Stores (“Wand repairs inside. Unicorn parking in the back”).

The most recent one stands almost as tall as Lorraine. She says the kids would imagine how wonderful it would be to shrink to the size of a fairy and visit each delightful dwelling.

“That magical believing, that innocence, is so fulfilling,” Lorraine smiles.

A couple of the children suggested they share their joy with the neighbourhood and started placing their creations along a nearby trail. They even put up a sign saying, “Fairy Tale Trail.”

“I started going for walks in the morning and seeing them in the corners and the trees,” Elise says with a smile. “It was the cutest thing ever!”

Elise says the Fairy Tale Trail “blew up” on social media, inspired YouTube videos, and even earned a spot on Google Maps. It seemed to capture the imagination of all kinds.

“Horses like fairies too!” a senior riding her horse along the trail laughs. “It gave everybody joy, regardless of age.”

“It was a real lightness in the last year,” another trail regular says. “And we all need a little lightness right now.”

But, at least one neighbour felt differently and complained frequently, so Lorraine’s family dismantled Fairy Tale Trail completely.

But that’s not stopping the fun. Like so many of the kids in Lorraine and Dennis’s clan have done, this flock of fairies is preparing to leave the nest.

They are moving here, there, and everywhere; to live with friends, family, and at least one fan who saw the structures on social media and is buying dozens of them to create something similar in Calgary.

“What more could you ask in life? Spread joy!” Lorraine says with a smile. “I think that’s really the purpose of life.”

And that’s how one couple, inspired by almost 100 family members, found a way to make countless strangers feel positive during the pandemic and beyond.