One Indiana construction foreman is making a difference in the lives of hundreds of kids at the Memorial Children’s hospital in South Bend, Indiana.
Jason Haney has been busy helping build a new wing on the children’s hospital, and while doing so has turned the $50 million expansion project into a larger than life game of “Where’s Waldo?” Since April, the pediatric patients have anxiously awaited each morning so they could rush to the window to search for the life-size Waldo, the character from the children’s series of picture books.
“I’ve been watching the kids run over to the window and look out for Waldo,” Heidi Prescott, the hospital’s media relations specialist of Beacon Health System, told ABC News. “On a daily basis, our pediatric patients, they look forward to going to the windows in their playrooms in their unit to try to figure out ‘Where’s Waldo?’ It usually only takes a few minutes before they see him peering out of the big scaffolding, but it truly brightens their day.”
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“Patients will run to the window and stare for a few minutes and then you’ll hear them exclaim, ‘I found him!’ ” Prescott added in an interview with People Magazine.“It brightens their days and it brightens our days, too.”
The inspiration for the life-size Waldo cut-out came from Haney’s teenage daughter, Taylor. Haney said when his daughter was 3-years-old, they started noticing something was wrong. He and his wife took Taylor to the hospital, where she underwent a CAT scan that revealed she had suffered from a stroke. At the time, the doctors told them that Taylor may never learn past a third-grade level. Thankfully, the doctors were wrong, and Taylor far exceeded any, and all, of their expectations. Taylor graduated with honors from John Glenn High School and will be attending Ball State University to study biology and zoology, and will hopefully work with tigers in the future.
“She’s 18 now and going to be starting Ball State next year,” Jason said. “She graduated with honors. There goes that third grade level thing that first doctor told us.”
Because of Taylor’s condition, the Haney family spent a lot of time in children’s hospitals, which is why Haney wanted to do something special for the kids, and sought out the help of his daughter to do so.
This past winter, Haney created a snowman on the construction site, complete with a hard hat and reflector vest for the children to see. It was such a hit that he decided to do more, and brought some inflatable snowmen and an inflatable SpongeBob to sit outside.
“They lit up at night and would wave in the wind,” Haney said. “As I was tying it down, one of the electricians was like, ‘It would be kind of funny if there was a ‘Where’s Waldo?'”
The idea stuck with Jason, so he and Taylor decided to create the 8-foot-tall wooden Waldo, which was made out of plywood and then painted. Since then, Jason has been placing the Waldo around the construction site for the kids to find. When Waldo is found, Haney is notified, and Waldo is moved again so the kids can continue to play.
“It depends on how well on I hide it,” Haney laughed. “He is 8-feet-tall so he doesn’t fit in the scaffolding. I put him in elevators and hide him around the hospital, too.”
The real-life game of “Where’s Waldo?” has become so popular among the kids at the hospital that Jason created a Facebook page dedicated to the game, where parents can tag photos when their kids find Waldo.
“That’s my way of finding out if they’ve found it,” he said.
Jason also revealed that he has another exciting idea for the kids — he and Taylor are currently working on four minion cut-outs that he will also be hiding around the construction site.
“Every once in a while we get a kid who doesn’t know who Waldo is,” says Prescott, “but everyone knows how to spot a minion.”
She added: “He has touched so many lives with this game. It’s just amazing to watch the kids’ faces light up and to see them look forward to looking out their windows every day.”
[Photo by Martin Handford / Wikipedia]