WACTC makes a little girl’s playhouse wish come true

WACTC makes a little girl’s playhouse wish come true

WOONSOCKET – For 8-year-old Julia Powers, the “wish” was her dream playhouse: a two-story rainbow-covered miniature home complete with a double balcony and a pulley system to transport snacks and toys to the second floor.

Powers, who was diagnosed last year with osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, had submitted the “plans” for her house to A Wish Come True Inc., a Warwick-based nonprofit with the mission of granting every child between the ages of 3 through 18 with a life-threatening illness one memorable wish.

Wish coordinator Beverly Molles said that Powers was referred to her organization through the Tomorrow Fund Clinic at Hasbro Children’s Hospital. After seeing the drawings submitted by the young North Smithfield girl, she began contacting local construction companies to see if the playhouse could be made a reality.

“I was calling around to a lot of different builders and I really wasn’t getting anywhere,” Molles said.

It was through a call to the Rhode Island Builder’s Association that Molles was finally directed to Woonsocket Area Career and Technical Center construction tech instructor Charlie Myers, the 2016 Rhode Island Career and Technical Education Teacher of the Year.

Myers says he was hesitant at first. His students were already committed to major projects for the remainder of the school year, which meant his young scholars would potentially have to give up their own time, and he would need cooperation from both school administration and custodial staff.

But then he saw Powers’ “blueprints,” drawings of how the young girl envisioned her playhouse with sections painted blue, red, yellow and green. Powers had labeled the illustrations to ensure there was no mistake: she was looking for a porch, a balcony, stairs inside, a rainbow on top and a “pulley to get stuff.” A cover sheet announced the “playhouse plans.”

“Once he saw that, he was in,” Molles said.

“They were what you would expect a little girl to draw,” Myers said of the blueprints. “A lot of these things were difficult. It was really amazing.”

Myers brought the idea to his students, who asked if the project could be done over their Christmas vacation. He then approached custodial staff, along with Principal William Webb.

“Both said they would do anything they needed to in order for us to do the project,” Myers said.

Webb even offered to buy pizza every day for the volunteers.

For Myer’s and others, that’s when the hard work began.

The construction professor called on fellow teacher Bill Esser to help with the design process, work which by itself took up some 25 hours.

“It actually was one of the most challenging things I ever had to design,” Myers said. “Everything is so tiny.”

The teachers also faced a challenge in creating Powers’ requested food and toy transport feature.

“We designed a pulley system that is safe, and that will be easy to operate,” Myers said.

The completed playhouse will include a five gallon bucket with a lid that comes up through hole in floor without ever potentially exposing a child to the danger of getting caught in the gap, or falling through.

“It’s a pretty cool design we’ve come up with,” Myers said.

Material Sand and Gravel donated crushed stone to help with construction, while Beauchemin Lumber gave the students wood and Harvey Industry provided two windows.

And on Tuesday, some 14 of Myers’ current students, and two or three of his former students got to work.

“We got the stuff and we started building,” he said.

The students gave up much their Christmas break to build the house, working eight-hour days on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to get most of the playhouse complete. Myers said some of the students walked for over an hour to get to the school in order to help build the structure.

“They’re really into it,” he said.

Others at the school joined in the volunteer effort, with students from Myer’s advisory class painting the requested rainbow roof, and one teacher even sewing rainbow curtains.

Created in 1982, A Wish Come True has granted hundreds of sick kids’ requests, from shopping sprees and bedroom makeovers, to trips to Disney World and the Super Bowl.

For Myers it’s important that the final product comes as close a possible to Powers’ fanciful plan. Details like how to finish painting and transport the creation have also been a challenge, with the two-story playhouse just a bit too large to fit in the students’ regular work space. The answer, he said, is to disassembled the playhouse for travel once most of the work is done, with volunteers going back to paint it in bright, eye-catching colors at a later date.

“It’s well underway,” said Myers, who added that Molles shared a picture with him of Powers’ reaction to the group’s initial work. “She’s really excited.”

Julia Powers’ “blueprint,” drawings show how she envisioned her playhouse with sections painted blue, red, yellow and green. The picture shows a porch, a balcony, a rainbow on top and a “pulley to get stuff.”
Julia Powers’ building plans included detailed drawings.
Woonsocket Area Career and Technical Center students gave up their Christmas vacation to make an 8-year-old North Smithfield girl’s wish come true. On top from left to right are Sam Charpentier, Austin Macamaux and Jeremy Beausoleil. On the lower level are Justin Dugas, Josh Patrie, Andreas Garcia, Ryan Patrie and Andrew Parks.

Comments

We are floored by the outreach of the community.

The fact that these kids gave up their vacation to work on Julia's playhouse is simply amazing.

We are so grateful and Julia is delighted that her plans are being utilized. Maybe being an architect is in her future!

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to all involved.