Tenafly: Critically Ill 3-Year-Old Receives Special Backyard Play Set

Source: Ocean Daily Voice

Riley, 3, has always loved playing on the playground near her Tenafly home, according to her parents, Jason and Nicole.

The family was devastated when doctors diagnosed the young girl with tumors of her her brain and back tumor in January. She spent more than three months in the hospital undergoing four major surgeries as well as chemotherapy before her tumor returned — and all in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Prior to receiving her diagnosis earlier this year, going to the playground was one of Riley’s favorite activities,” Jason and Nicole said. “During this scary time when there is some risk for anyone leaving their house, imagine the risk for a child in treatment for cancer.”

While Riley remains severely immunocompromised to the COVID-19 virus, the family’s lives grew even more complicated when the toddler gained a new baby sister. Riley’s caretakers could no longer stay safely in the family’s home, and Riley’s grandfather — a nurse working on an active COVID-19 hospital floor — was no longer allowed to visit.

As Riley continued her treatment process, the family worked with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to create and deliver “Riley’s Clubhouse” — the girl’s very own personalized backyard play set based around Disney’s Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

Now, Riley — whose brain surgeries have altered her mobility as well as the dexterity on her left side — can enjoy the physical and emotional benefits of outdoor play in the comfort and safety of her own yard.

“One of Riley’s cancers doesn’t have the greatest prognosis, but we will keep hoping and fighting,” said Jason and Nicole. “However, we don’t want her to spend whatever time she may or may not have left cooped up inside our home.”

Riley’s wish was granted with support from Jersey Mike’s Subs, which has a partnership with Make-A-Wish. In New Jersey alone, the sandwich chain has granted more than 100 Make-A-Wish wishes.

“This playset has provided Riley with a safe space where she can get her energy out and just enjoy herself…This playset has also provided her with another means of physical therapy to help her get stronger.”

“Whenever we ask her, ‘Should we go to Riley’s Clubhouse?’ her face immediately brightens as she runs for her socks and shoes.”

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