Jake, an energetic 11-year-old from Burleson, Texas, has an ultimate love for LEGOs. He is a pro at building sets with the famous blocks and even crafts his own designs with one of his most recent masterpieces being a miniature replica of his bedroom.
When Jake is building, you would never know that he battles a life-threatening medical condition called congenital myasthenic syndrome, an incredibly rare form of muscular dystrophy. Because the disease is so rare, doctors find it highly unpredictable and very difficult to diagnose. Jake’s brother passed away from the same illness, although doctors didn’t realize what it was until Jake started exhibiting the same symptoms. Jake’s parents, Leigha and Eric, have come to learn so much about the illness over time and are so complimentary of their son for his resilience, strength and unceasing spirit to play.
Jake met his wish granters in January of 2014 at the Wishing Room at the Make-A-Wish®
office in Fort Worth, Texas. Jake had not told his parents any of his wish ideas, so they were uncertain whether or not Jake would have a specific wish in mind. When Jake had the opportunity to make his one true wish, he knew exactly what he wanted. His very own LEGO workshop in his backyard.
Wanting to be certain that this was his heartfelt wish, the wish granters asked Jake to give them a “tour” of his workshop. They asked Jake to stand up and open an imaginary door. “Now, what do you see?” they asked. Jake described his vision in great detail, saying ideally his workshop would include plenty of storage and a waiting area for friends and family. Jake was accustomed to waiting for doctor’s appointments, and now he wanted a comfortable place for his guests to wait while he constructs their projects. He wanted his workshop to look like it was made of LEGOs, mostly blue and green, and to have plenty of space to build. Jake had also recently visited the LEGO Discovery Center in Grapevine, Texas, and envisioned LEGO statues around his workspace.
Ideas on how to make Jake's wish happen began to quickly fill the room as his unique wish was shared with regional council members, volunteers and supporters. Soon enough, local architect Harvey Youngblood offered to donate his time and, most importantly, treat Jake as a real client!
Jake’s workshop wish began with an important meeting with Harvey in Jake's backyard, where Jake had the opportunity to describe his workshop vision. Harvey took every detail into consideration and sketched detailed architectural plans, followed by a colorful rendering of the building’s exterior. Jake’s wish was coming to life right there on the sketch pad and within weeks, Harvey revealed final architectural plans to Jake one afternoon at the Make-A-Wish office. As soon as Harvey unfurled the plans across the conference table, Make-A-Wish staff, volunteers and his parents all held their breath as they waited with much anticipation for Jake’s response. Jake had a calm, neutral expression on his face, which worried onlookers, but then, in a burst of excitement, he sprung up in his chair with a huge grin on his face saying, “I’m just trying to contain myself!”
Harvey’s young client was thrilled with his work which kicked off the search for a talented team of builders, painters, installers and volunteers to turn this workshop into a reality. As soon as the basic frame was constructed, Eric, Jake’s father, shared that Jake was already spending time out in the empty space. He would hop in his wheelchair and roll out to check on the project.
“We are very grateful. I literally have tears in my eyes," explained Eric in the beginning stages of the project. "You have changed my son’s whole attitude on life already.”
But, the magic was just beginning.
Once the basic structure was complete, an enthusiastic group of employees from UnitedHealthcare arrived together in a 15-passenger van, ready to get to work. They diligently taped off a brick pattern onto the walls, then painted blue and green squares to resemble the famous building blocks. It was a tedious task, but they saw it through to completion and even let Jake help along the way. Jake loved having such an enthusiastic team in his backyard and his parents were consistently humbled by the number of contributors to this project.
A team of local area vendors and council members worked on the interior by installing shelving, hanging LEGO patterned curtains that would separate the waiting room from the work space and even laid rubber floor tiles that resembled the tiny blocks.
Council members included their families in Jake’s wish by working with their kids, fellow LEGO enthusiasts, to construct an intricate LEGO Yoda statue that Jake wanted to display in his workshop. The design was challenging, even for young LEGO experts, but they persevered through over 40 pages of steps, and as volunteers were working outside, inside, the young builders cheerfully chanted, “Turn that page!” to signify their progress.
In addition to his time designing the space, Harvey spent numerous hours onsite to get the final details just right. He crafted a sign for the workshop and installed some giant blocks out front to make it look like the shop was truly designed brick by brick.
Jake was fascinated with every step of construction. His wish granters emphasized from the beginning that part of his wish would be to see the actual process of building the workshop. Anytime someone was working on the project, Jake rushed out to check out the progress.
As finishing touches were being made, Make-A-Wish staff hung a sign on the workshop door saying “No Jakes allowed until August 28th” to allow for a little Make-A-Wish magic. Although it was only one week that Jake wasn’t allowed into his workshop, the heightened anticipation from this final countdown to his wish reveal was something his parents will never forget.
On August 28, 2014, everyone that had anything to do with helping grant Jake's wish gathered in front of the completed workshop for an official ribbon cutting. After cutting the ribbon, Jake spent time looking at every detail from the colorful floor to the LEGO curtains. He then sat down with his friends and immediately started building his next masterpiece.
This wish would not have been possible without a talented group of volunteers, donors and local construction experts.
Special thanks to the following contributors:
Our wish granting volunteers, Jenny Urquhart & Emilie Watson; Architect, Harvey Youngblood; Dexter Pruitt with Pruitt’s Painting & Drywall; Jerri Watt, Steve Hockman, Dan Heinrich & the Southwest Regional Council of Make-A-Wish North Texas; John Delin with Integrity Group, LLC; Milestone Electric; Danny Tailor with Tailor Made Counter Tops; Bob from “Andy OnCall”; and UnitedHealthcare.