In many ways, Nicole is a typical thirteen-year-old – she enjoys music, competing on the school basketball team and playing the flute in the school band. She loves living in the country and taking care of her horse, dog and pet rabbits. She has an identical twin sister, Ashley, who she loves, and argues with, like any siblings that age. She understands the importance of giving back and spends a great deal of time fostering stray dogs with the help of her mom and dad.
However, about two years ago, things changed dramatically, and Nicole’s life stopped being typical. On one otherwise ordinary day, Nicole picked up her back pack and suddenly felt excruciating pain in her neck and across her shoulders. After a frightening time filled with questions, doctor visits and tests, she was finally diagnosed with a bone tumor (Eosinophilic Granuloma) in her C7 vertebrae that weakened the bone to the point of breaking. Suddenly, Nicole was not able to do the things she loved with her family and friends. Instead of enjoying playing outside and having fun at school, she faced hours with her parents at Children’s Medical Center, undergoing more tests, talking to doctors, and ultimately, having major surgery to remove the tumor.
During her treatment, one of Nicole’s doctors recommended Make-A-Wish® to her and her family, and soon thereafter she was contacted by her wish granters, Tammy and Greg. Nicole discussed with them the types of wishes she might make. She fantasized about meeting her favorite celebrities or traveling to exotic places but when it came down to it, she made a wish for something she could share with her twin sister Ashley. Nicole asked Make-A-Wish® North Texas to grant her wish to have her very own tree house.
To Nicole, the tree house would provide her with all the things that are so important to her; a place to relax away from worries of her condition or day-to-day life and a way to spend time outdoors with her sister Ashley. The tree house could be their place to share their teenage years together.
Make-A-Wish North Texas called upon its friends at 5G Studio Collaborative, L.L.C., the architecture firm that designed the Dallas Omni Hotel, to spearhead the building of this tree house and were just one of the many companies that helped turn Nicole’s wish into a reality. Parkhill Development Corporation, CenterPoint Energy, Spring Valley Construction Company, Triune Services Group, Briggs Equipment, Hull & Associates, Ennovative Millwork, L.L.C., Builders FirstSource, Inc., MasTec, G.N.P. Inc., Creekwood Church, The Common Men, Precision Fence and Ace Décor & Finishes were all major contributors to the project.
Nicole met with the architects and designers to brainstorm the design of her tree house. She selected colors for the interior and identified certain characteristics she wanted her tree house to have, such as sleeping areas for her and her sister, as well as a way for her dog to get into the tree house.
While the tree house plans were underway, the architecture firm discovered there was only one problem. No trees! The family lived in a rural area that was surrounded by a wooded area, but no tree on the family’s property could hold the structure they were planning. Undaunted, 5G and team arranged to have telephone poles installed to support the tree house. This would be no ordinary tree house – instead, it would be a fantastic hideaway on the back of their property!
With the help of many volunteers (and some very impressive heavy equipment), construction began. In just a short time, the exterior was complete and the design team moved in to make Nicole’s tree house perfect, with paints and just the right furnishings, making good use, of course, of Nicole’s favorite colors – pink and teal.
Nicole decided on this wish because her Dad had promised to build a tree house for the two sisters. But with all the complications of a life-threatening condition, the project had become low on the family’s priority list. Nicole decided to ask for her tree house for her and her sister after imagining what wonderful ideas Make-A-Wish could come up with for her wish. She never imagined that this would be something that would become so very important to not only her, but all that shared a part in this very special wish.
Finishing touches were placed on the tree house, fresh lemonade and popsicles for all the guests kept them cool as they awaited Nicole’s arrival. The large tribute to her journey stood on giant telephone poles nestled in the wooded tree line about half a mile across the family’s property from their house. As camera crews, relatives, friends and Make-A-Wish North Texas staff gathered from near and far just to see Nicole’s expression at the big reveal. With her eyes closed, Nicole’s wish granters carefully guided the 13 year-old positioning her right in front of the tree house. When she opened her eyes, it had seemed that all the people, flashes from cameras, and cheering had vanished as she focused on her wish; something she had anticipated and fought for so long. With tears of happiness swelling in her eyes, she grabbed onto her twin for an embrace of support. Finally, they had a special place where they could reclaim their childhood and pick back up where they started before the tumor tried to take it all away. As she held her hands along her cheeks in shock, all the speechless teen could murmur was “Oh, my gosh! Thank you so much!” Later when the initial shock had subsided she was asked what she thought when she first saw her tree house, Nicole replied, “It’s bigger beyond what I thought it was going to be."
Final words of thanks were said by friends and family to the many individuals and groups that had helped this wish become a reality. Nicole was given an official hardhat inked with all the companies that gladly donated their time to build her tree house; they will forever be a part of her healing and her wish. The time had come to finally climb the steps to see her new hideaway. Her eyes widened and her jaw dropped as the stairs ended and opened into a breezeway with a hammock chair that looked out across the property. On her right, a room with screen doors that opened into a bunk bed for her and Ashley to spend their summery nights making shadow puppets, rebelliously drinking all the soda, and crashing from a sugar high after giggling all night. To the left, there was another room which included a cork wall for hanging pictures of good times to be had. An adjacent wall covered in chalkboard paint awaited many guest lists to be drawn on it for “tree house parties”. Swinging from her new swings descending from the walls of the house, she discussed the itinerary for that evening with Ashley. The plan: to hang up the sign her grandmother had given her that says, “No boys allowed,” bring all the soda upstairs, and enjoy her new beginning with her sister and the wish that will last a lifetime.