Anonymous donor pays $5K in child care bills for 3 families with pandemic-related financial hardships |

Anonymous donor pays $5K in child care bills for 3 families with pandemic-related financial hardships

Ryan, center left, and Austyn Dineen pose for a portrait with their sons — Forest, left, and Fischer — at Timberline Learning Center in Breckenridge on Friday, Jan. 8. The family received an anonymous donation toward tuition after experiencing financial difficulties due to mandatory quarantines.
Photo by Jason Connolly / Jason Connolly Photography

Some local families stretched thin by the pandemic have received unforeseen help with their child care expenses.

Austyn Dineen, of Breckenridge, and her family were in a sudden, difficult financial situation in recent weeks due COVID-19. Dineen’s 18-month-old son, Fischer, tested positive for the virus around Thanksgiving, forcing the entire family into quarantine for three weeks. It was a double whammy for the family because they could not use the child care service they were paying for, and one parent also went without income due to a job that could not be performed remotely.

The Dineens then were faced with another unexpected hit when their dog tore its ACL and required surgery costing several thousand dollars and eating into a rainy day fund they’d been adding to since the pandemic began.

“I figured out how quickly a scenario could change,” Dineen said about the past couple of months. “We felt like we were in a stable place, doing everything we could to be prepared, and then we were in quarantine for a month, dwindling our savings pretty rapidly.”

After the family picked up their dog from surgery in Denver, their child care provider, Timberline Learning Center in Breckenridge, called to inform them that an anonymous donor had called the center seeking to help families in need. The Dineens were selected due to their current work and financial situation. Dineen said the anonymous donor paid the family’s child care bill for January and February.

“I assumed that it could have been a family member, a friend of our’s — it could have been anyone,” Dineen said. “I felt bad at the time and kind of grilled the day care, asking ‘Who is it?’ And they were like, ‘You don’t know this person, but this person has done this before.’ Then I was thinking, ‘How do you put it in words to say thank you?’ That’s where I got the motivation to say something publicly.’”

The Dineens are just one local family impacted by the effects of the pandemic, but their situation speaks to the challenge so many have faced. Dineen said the challenge began in March, juggling working from home and their kids’ child care. Once the couple returned to work and the kids returned to day care, things were different.

“In other typical years for a lot of us parents with our child, we wouldn’t bat an eye at a runny nose,” Dineen said. “Now, we’re hypersensitive to those type of symptoms, prepared at any moment to get a call that your child and daily work life can be postponed two weeks at a time.”

Timberline Learning Center co-teacher Leah Tharp plays with Forest Dineen at the preschool in Breckenridge on Friday, Jan. 8.
Photo by Jason Connolly / Jason Connolly Photography

Leslie Davis, the executive director at Timberline, said this is the third year the anonymous donor has helped financially assist families at Timberline, which has experienced multiple closures due to quarantines related to positive test results and contact tracing. But this time around, the donor asked to do more and helped three families totaling $5,000.

Davis described child care as “the gears that get things going” in terms of enabling locals to work their jobs without also having to look after their children while on the clock.

“And if we grind to a halt — if child care has to close because of quarantines and operations — everything around us stops,” Davis said. “The plow guy can’t come plow.”

Along with the anonymous donor, Davis said the town of Breckenridge has “risen to the occasion” by allocating $25,000 in “emergency funds” last month from the town’s general fund to help families. Davis said she’s reached out to several Timberline families encouraging them to apply for the funds. She said a half-dozen families have expressed interest so far, and she expects that number to grow in the coming weeks.

Timberline Learning Center lead teacher Sarah Young plays with Fischer Dineen at the preschool in Breckenridge on Friday, Jan. 8.
Photo by Jason Connolly / Jason Connolly Photography

Corrie Burr, the child care and housing administrator for the town of Breckenridge, explained that families continue to pay for services, even if their children are forced to quarantine because of public health rules, due to sick policy agreements.

Burr said the town has the capability to extend another $25,000 for the child care emergency assistance fund, which began Dec. 13, if deemed necessary. As of Friday, Jan. 8, she said a few thousand dollars from the fund had been used.

Find information about how to apply for the funds — which can be used at Timberline, Little Red Schoolhouse, Carriage House or Breckenridge Montessori — at

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