Playroom of Hope
A Wisconsin family is turning tragedy into hope for children everywhere. It's called the "Playroom of Hope," and it's getting closer to becoming a reality.
When little Nevaeh Wallace was born, her parents knew she'd have a hard road ahead. The Stoughton girl had a severe heart defect that required multiple surgeries. Those surgeries necessitated lengthy stays at Children's Hospital in Wauwatosa.
And more often than not, when Nevaeh was in the hospital with her parents, her brother and sisters were at home with grandparents, waiting for word. The problem: it was a long drive to the hospital and there wasn't much to do once siblings arrived.
"There was nothing to do there, they had this little dinky waiting room, not much there," 11-year old Weston, Nevaeh's brother, told us.
Their parents concurred. "They weren't able to visit a lot, there was really nothing for them to do once they got there," they said.
Nevaeh recovered and was allowed to return home. But things quickly went south.
"In April we took her to the hospital and they told us she was in heart failure but she once again bounced back and responded well to all the medicines," Jamie, her mom, recalled.
But when Nevaeh returned home, again, it was tragic.
"The next morning she unexpectedly went into cardiac arrest and died at home," Jamie recalled tearfully.
Devastated by their daughter's death, the Wallaces tried to find a way to preserve their memories of their bubbly baby girl, while helping others.
"We were talking about finding something to do to keep our minds off of just feeling so cruddy and just trying to we wanted to remember her and we wanted other people to remember her," Jamie said.
Their idea was to build a sibling playroom at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. It would be a safe, fun place for siblings to play while their parents deal with the children who are hospitalized.
Maggie Butterfield, the head of patient services at Children's, explained why a sibling playroom would be beneficial.
"Having a place to be able to take your healthy sibling children to and allow them to be what kids are, they're playful, energetic wonderful individuals who need that same opportunity to express themselves through what comes naturally and that's play," she explained.
The hospital recently opened a healing garden outside where kids can run around, but there is still nowhere inside for siblings to cut loose.
"Having that dedicated space, planning on that space so that I can be 100% for the child that is hospitalized will make life a little bit easier for mom and dad," Butterfield added.
The response to the idea has been overwhelming. The Wallaces have gotten more than 600 separate donations since they pledged to create the playroom.
"It's kind of snowballed, we've had bake sales and people have done major events," Matt Wallace said. And while originally Matt hoped to raise the money instantly, he's had a change of heart. The Wallaces said they've met so very many amazing people along the way, they will treasure those relationships forever.
And while they've only raised about half of the $300,000 they need, they said the process has helped them heal, while doing good, Jamie said.
"Her story is just getting out there and people are being touched by her and it's bringing them to want to give to other people, and that brings some peace in this all," Jamie Wallace said.
And it's a project that is helping the entire family heal, Matt Wallace added. "This is kind of their journey took they went through the same stuff we went through, so being able to have them be a part of each event, has been kind of important to us and I think it's helping them in their healing too."
The Playroom of Hope is a "Miracle on Canal Street" charity this year, which the Wallaces say will really boost their fundraising this year.
A local fundraiser for the Playroom of Hope will be held at Stonefire Pizza in New Berlin on Friday, October 22nd.