SALEM - When 13-year-old Levi Gaskins came home from school Thursday, his wish for a place to kick back, relax and work on LEGO projects came true.
He found a fully-furnished clubhouse in his back yard, complete with a loft equipped with a bed and a lantern, and a futon, table and chairs, shelving, a rug and video game chairs on the ground floor.
"I think it's awesome," the South Range seventh grader said while checking out his new digs.
South Range seventh grader Levi Gaskins, 13, poses with some of the LEGO projects he’ll be building inside his new clubhouse, a gift from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Levi has been undergoing chemotherapy in his second fight against a brain tumor. Make-A-Wish personnel surprised him with the furnishings for the recently-completed clubhouse Thursday after school. (Salem News photo by Mary Ann Greier)
"I like all the LEGOs. I like the whole idea of the house," he said.
Make-A-Wish turned the idea of the clubhouse into reality for the young cancer patient, working with Weaver Barns of Sugar Creek and Yoder Site Preparation of Millersburg, who donated their time to construct the clubhouse two weeks ago. Make-A-Wish personnel and volunteers arrived Thursday to complete the task by moving in the furnishings and putting up posters for a Mario Brothers theme.
They also wrapped several gifts for Levi to open - several LEGO kits for him to use in his new clubhouse, with lots of Star Wars-themed kits.
His mom, Amy, said "he always wanted a clubhouse or a treehouse, a place to be away from his sisters, Lasy, 11, and Luv Rain, 6. It came with a lock so he can lock everybody out. He'll probably turn it into his video game cave I'm sure.
"I think it's wonderful -a place he can go to relax," she said.
His doctor referred him to Make-A-Wish when he was first diagnosed with cancer at age 7, then he went into remission for awhile. The brain tumor came back last year and he's been battling ever since. His last round of chemotherapy is scheduled for next month at University Hospital in Cleveland.
Senior Wish Program Manager Krista Kirby explained a doctor, social worker, parent or the child can contact Make-A-Wish. The child must be at least 2 1/2 years old and referred prior to their 18th birthday and have a life-threatening condition at the time of referral. How long it takes for a wish to be granted depends on the child's health, the family and where the child is in their treatment schedule.
In northeast Ohio during the last fiscal year, which ended Aug. 31, there were 144 wishes granted. In Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, there were 865 wishes granted.
Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana is the largest of 62 Make-A-Wish chapters in the country and granted more wishes last year than any other chapter. The Northeast Ohio region has 165 children waiting for their wishes to be granted and the foundation needs volunteers in Trumbull, Columbiana, Stark, Summit and Wayne counties.
To learn more about Make-A-Wish or to make a donation to the foundation, visit the group's website at www.makeawishohio.org or call 1-877-206-9474.
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org