An 8-year-old Waldoboro girl in remission from acute lymphoblastic leukemia has a new playhouse, thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Rachel Flaherty enjoyed the playhouse with family and friends for the first time on her wish day, Aug. 14, almost a year after she finished chemotherapy.
According to Sonya Purington, director of mission delivery at Make-A-Wish Maine, Rachel underwent two years of treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a type of cancer that attacks the blood and bone marrow and impacts white blood cells.
The treatment regimen left Rachel without much energy. “She had to distance herself from other people and was often lonely,” Purington said.
Rachel finished chemotherapy in late 2019, according to Purington. Her wish was for a play space.
Purington said Rachel wanted her play space to include a loft to hang out with friends, a gallery to create and display her artwork, and a climbing wall to work on her mobility.
“A highlight of her wish experience for her own playhouse was picking out the different aspects of the playhouse that she envisioned and also being part of the construction,” Purington said.
Purington said a team from the nonprofit Sustainable Forestry Initiative, which collaborates on forest-based conservation and community initiatives, helped to assemble the playhouse in Waldoboro.
Stephanie Flaherty, Rachel’s mother, was happy to see her daughter’s excitement about the new playhouse.
“One of the most emotional parts for me was seeing her really want to work hard at mastering the climbing wall and spend time outside again after she (had) no interest for so long. She is already getting so much enjoyment out of her playhouse,” Stephanie Flaherty said in the press release.
Rachel worked for a full day to climb the playhouse’s climbing wall after construction, but before her friends came over for her wish day. It was her first chance to see friends after months apart, according to the press release.
“She was so weak for so long, it was incredible to witness this turning point for her,” Stephanie Flaherty said in the press release.
In addition to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Hancock Lumber, Richard Wing and Sons Logging, and Viking Lumber helped make Rachel’s wish come true.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that helps to grant the wishes of children with serious illnesses. Since 1992, the foundation has granted 1,500 wishes to children in Maine.
Kate Vickery, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish Maine, said the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the organization’s work.
“Many of the children we work with feel isolated and disconnected due to their illness, treatments, and hospitalizations,” Vickery said in the press release. “The pandemic makes this even more trying for them. We’re honored to continue to grant wishes like these during a time when kids need joy and positive distractions more than ever.”
The foundation is seeing a flurry of gift and construction-oriented wishes this summer as travel considerations keep wish families close to home. Wishes include a bulldozer play set, a side-by-side, a virtual shopping spree, and a puppy.