Originally Published: January 5, 2018 5:56 a.m.
Heroes soar among us in many shapes, sizes and talents to broaden horizons for other people. Witness the very best construction minds teaming up to help the Make-A-Wish Foundation fulfill a home playground wish for 6-year-old Sean Pfister of Dewey.
Young Sean’s tickled pink smiles have tugged the heartstrings of his parents, three sisters, volunteers, and YCCA members as the wheel-chair bound boy now delights in a wheelchair accessible slide lovingly erected in the family’s yard.
This resilient young boy has lived with complex medical circumstances confining him to a wheelchair: a prisoner in his own body, solitary except by touch, and unable to fully connect with those around him. That restriction on sharing his thoughts with others is with optic technology enabling Sean to communicate by visually choosing icons on a computer screen.
It is through that recently acquired marvel of optical science that Sean was able to share his playset dream with our local Make-A-Wish’s liaison Lori Padilla, a volunteer wish grantor. After meeting Sean and his family, whatever it would take, Lori silently vowed, she would ensure the wish of this irresistible little boy was granted.
Once Sean’s wish was approved by the Make-A-Wish grants board, into my office walked Lori and at that moment our lives were forever connected. Lori approached me about partnering YCCA with Make-A-Wish to help make it happen. Lori’s enthusiasm was infectious, and so profoundly endearing, that it became essential for YCCA to help and my immediate answer to her question “could YCCA help?” was a resounding unquestionable and reverberating YES WE WILL.
What began as a simple project, move a little dirt here, move a little dirt there, pound a couple of nails here and lay some artificial grass suddenly took on a life of its own as the YCCA wish team as we became known adventurously embarked on upgrades to the Pfister family’s property to facilitate ramp access, playset location while maintaining ingress and egress to the home. Spearheading the effort was Lori, who worked tirelessly and YCCA’s member volunteers all enthusiastically worked together to make the wish happened.
Sean — a true inspiration and himself a hero in his own right — was the one thing Lori and the other volunteers kept at the forefront. I called on our YCCA members, Wyatt Orr of Earth Resources Corporation, Chuck Merritt of DeCarol Company, Ray Hernandez of Hacienda Del Ray Landscaping and Pat Russell of Arizona Stone and Architectural Products and asked for their help and not knowing the magnitude and scale of the project and not knowing what they were getting into by saying yes to me, I had my team!
Starting at the exterior of the home, our YCCA member team determined how to build a ramp to the playset platform to maneuver Sean safely to the top of the slide chute. Though the project sounded easy on the surface again it involved a number of complexities.
The original scope of the project had been to “grade” a pad area for a multi-level playset to assist with movability for Sean. How simple could that be — Earth Resources just had to mobilize a small grader and move a wall of granite. However, this venture ended up being much more than a simple grading project.
Due to site restrictions, egress from the home into the yard, the ideal playset location, significant earth moving, ramp work, and new decking were required. These guys worked with determination to make the area “just right.” “Move a little more dirt there” “make this smooth” were words from your YCCA girl self-designated Project Manager. Not once did the Earth Resources crew try to swoop me into the front end of the grader!
I told Chuck Merritt and his crew that I had a hammer and could join them to assemble the deck. Chuck politely said “no thank you.” Seriously, I did not even get to pound one nail. The deck work took on an extension as the exit from the home was unsafe. The area exiting the home was modernized and upgraded allowing for safe exit for Sean and his running giggling siblings, pushing their beloved brother to the play set.
The playset arrived before the synthetic grass had been installed. After a flurry of phone calls, Ray from Hacienda Del Ray Landscaping, in his always calm, cool and collect character said “Sandy don’t worry” I got this and by golly he did. Playset assembled after 8 hours. There were thousands upon billions of screws required to assemble this Disneyland Ride D. Ray and his team came in after the play set was in place and magically stitched and laid the artificial grass down like they were seamstresses.
Being a Wish granting partner as the YCCA guys will tell you was a very rewarding and sometimes humbling experience. When we first visited the Pfister home and took stock of the project’s needs, Sean captivated the burley, Wrangler wearing, boots on the ground contractors.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation arranges experiences described as “wishes” to children with life-threatening medical conditions and this wish for Sean was able to come true because of caring actions from Lori Padilla, walking through my office door on a bright beautiful day in August, 2017. Lori, YCCA is privileged to know you and a tower of strength you are for Make-A-Wish.
The hours of volunteer time and monetary donations and donated materials, who cares what those numbers turn out to be? Who cares that the project which evolved into a much bigger project at multiple turns took longer than expected.
What matters is this project for Sean was an undertaking that enhanced his life due to his life-threatening illness. Through it all, I am convinced that everyone participating in this grant wish experienced the wonder and satisfaction of watching this young hero bask in the delivery of the heartfelt wish that was granted.
In 2017, more than 285,000 children in the United States and its territories have benefited from the hope, strength and joy of experiencing their one heartfelt wish. And while it’s not the beginning, it’s nowhere near the end.
Even as young Sean expresses his gratitude with brilliant smiles and optically interpreted eye movements, we are all reminded that goodness and light remain in the eye of the beholder at any time of year.
And to you Lori Padilla, thank you for walking through my office door. My life is forever better because of knowing you.
Remember to tune in to YCCA’s “Hammer Time” every Saturday or Sunday at 7 a.m. on KQNA 1130AM, 99.9FM, 95.5FM or the web kqna.com. Listen to Sandy to Mike talk about the construction industry meet your local community partners and so much more. You will be entertained.
Sandy Griffis is executive director of the Yavapai County Contractors Association. Email your questions to her at email@example.com or call 928-778-0040.