Building Hope, Providing Play
Volunteers build a playset to help bring back playtime to a pediatric cancer patient.
A child’s curiosity, imagination and adventurous spirit can often be inspired through outdoor play. But Esther Silva was stuck inside looking out at a world just out of her reach.
Esther, 4, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia just before her third birthday.
“Esther’s diagnosis was a horrible day in our lives,” says Esther’s mother, Claudia Silva. “She was so young and weak. She lost her hair twice. Her side effects were the worst because she was so upset from the chemo and how it was affecting her, but she couldn’t explain with words what was wrong.”
But one of the unforeseen side effects was isolation. Due to chemotherapy treatments, Esther spends most of her time at home.
“Every time we went any place that had a playground, she couldn’t go,” says Claudia. “Sometimes she can’t go outside at all because it can be dangerous.”
The Roc Solid Foundation wanted to help Esther be a kid again. The Foundation builds hope for kids with cancer through its Play It Forward initiative, among others. The Play It Forward initiative builds custom playsets in backyards of children ages 1-8 fighting cancer and completes room makeovers for children ages 8-18.
The foundation orchestrates a whole day of fun for the family. Volunteers arrive early to escort the family to a limo, where they are taken away. During the day, the playset is built for the child and then the family returns for the surprise unveiling.
“It’s powerful for a child to be a kid for a day and for the family to see their child smiling and happy,” says Roc Solid Foundation Director of Communications Ashley Martin. “Just seeing what these families go through and being able to allow them to completely escape all of that for a day is amazing.”
Andrew Brownfield, a State Farm® agent in Rock Hill, S.C., and several other agents volunteered to help. State Farm also provided a grant to help fund the project.
After the family left for the day of fun and relaxation, the group of volunteers gathered to kick start their work by each sharing why they were there. Then, everyone began the tasks of putting the playset together, prepping the area and even pulling weeds around the house.
“One of the big things when you’re dealing with childhood cancer is nothing else matters,” says Andrew. “We noticed their landscaping was overgrown so we borrowed a few bags of the mulch meant for the play area, cleaned out all the weeds around the house and added mulch to the area.”
Once the playset was built, Roc Solid suggested the volunteers write notes of encouragement on the playset. Esther will have notes of encouragement as she grows.
When the family arrived home, they were led to the backyard where friends, family and the volunteers waited for them. Esther, her brothers, David and Daniel, and their neighborhood friends excitedly played on their very own playset.
“She has been playing every single day. It’s hard to take her off it,” Claudia says. “I will not forget those faces who did this for us. They were so kind to do it. I tell my kids, ‘They didn’t know us. They are not our relatives.’ When we came here from Brazil, we didn’t have relatives and I thought we would be alone, but so many people who never knew us were happy to help.
“That’s why I have been so blessed.”