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Small But Strong: Project playhouse brings joy to kids who survived serious illness

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COVENTRY, R.I. (WPRI) — It’s a story about kids, helping kids, helping kids.  

Four years ago, a business management class at Bryant University started “Project Playhouse.” It utilizes the skills of carpentry students at local high schools to surprise children with playhouses that are customized just for them.

But they’re not just any children. The kids receiving the playhouses have battled serious illnesses and they’re all chosen by the local organization Rosemary’s Wish Kids.

Eyewitness News got a behind-the-scenes look back in March as students from the Coventry High School Regional Career and Technical Center worked to put the finishing touches on their playhouse.

The playhouse they built is based on Harry Potter, known in the popular book and movie series as “the boy who lived.” It was being built for a little girl who also lived, but instead of surviving an attack by Lord Voldemort, she won her battle with Leukemia. 

Hailey Fish, 7, was diagnosed in August 2017. She spent eight months at Hasbro Children’s Hospital fighting, instead of playing.

Hailey is now in remission, and Eyewitness News was there when she received her Harry Potter-themed playhouse. She was one of the three children chosen this year to receive the gift of a lifetime.

The first child to receive their playhouse was 2-and-a-half-year-old Patrick. Students at Newport Area Career & Technical Center built him a Transformers-themed playhouse. The smile on his face as he stood in the doorway with his older brother said it all.

Then it was 7-year-old Michael’s turn. His playhouse was underwater-themed, complete with a ladder and upper deck on the inside. It was built by the students at Chariho Career and Technical Center. 

When it finally came time for Hailey, the large crowd waiting outside was a bit overwhelming. She was shy at first, holding onto her mom, but once she stepped inside her new playhouse, she was immersed in the “Wizarding World” from her favorite series.

It’s exactly what the Coventry students wanted. 

Senior Derek Moore said he’s never done anything that’s made him feel so accomplished and so good inside.

“This was honestly the best of my high school experience,” he said.

It was a great moment for the many sponsors of the project too, including Navigant Credit Union, Target, The Tomorrow Fund, McGraw Hill Education, Bishop Hendricken High School and Camp Sunshine. 

Watching their daughter smile after so many months of fighting, the similarities between Harry Potter and Hailey, are not lost on her parents.

“She’s our hero,” Hailey’s dad Brian said. “She’s been through so much. We’re very proud.”

Hailey will always be considered the girl who lived. That’s because she’s small but strong.

If you know a child who you think is Small but Strong, email Shannon at SHegy@wpri.com.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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