Girl’s wish for tree house comes true

Friday, November 16, 2012



A room with a view – in a tree house. That was the wish of Merrimack youngster Abby Stover, 7, a nature lover living with cystic fibrosis, a chronic illness impacting the lungs and other organs.

Abby’s dream of having a tree house in her backyard came true last month, thanks to Make-A-Wish New Hampshire and some talented local craftsmen. Brian and Susan Tardif, owners of BT Construction & Remodeling of Concord, and the firm’s lead carpenter Jimmy Duval and other volunteers sawed, drilled and nailed to fulfill Abby’s request.

The project also was aided by Merrimack’s Dave Hirkos, owner of Hirkos Tree Service. He inspected the favored tree, a red oak, and deemed it a good choice. However, it had two trunks, one of a lesser size. The smaller trunk was leaning and needed removal. Hirkos had to climb it to cut it down, piece by piece, and lower the severed sections to the ground. The remaining trunk is some 60-feet tall.

The big oak, well braced to hold the components of the 4-foot by 8-foot structure, now serves as an interior design detail. Its trunk protrudes through the floor of the tree house and the ceiling. Workers likened it to having a tree growing through the middle of one’s living room.

The nonprofit Make-A-Wish Foundation, now celebrating 25-years in New Hampshire, is renowned for granting the wishes of kids suffering from life-threatening illnesses. Some kids want trips to Disney World. Others want visits from sports celebrities or Hollywood stars. The New Hampshire branch of the foundation has fulfilled more than 1,000 wishes.

Jason Tremblay, director of philanthropy for Make-A-Wish NH, said the project that benefited Abby has ripple effects far beyond the completion of the project. He said granted wishes do more than provide a momentary diversion.

“Each wish that is granted helps a kid feel like a kid again,” Tremblay said of the youngsters that too often are focused on hospital visits, medications and worries. “The projects provide kids and their families a way of being together in an activity that is all about fun.”

Abby had but one wish. She was set on a tree house. Eventually, it had a view, four walls, three windows, a door with a doorknob, a porch with a railing, a waterproof roof and steps instead of a ladder. How, she asked, could her pet dog climb a ladder to visit her up in the tree?

Abby also suggested a snack-delivery system made of a long loop of rope on two pulleys used o the tree house from the family’s kitchen a hanging basket filled with bananas, cookies or other treats. The deliveries usually come from Abby’s mom, Jennifer Stover, who works in technical services at the Merrimack Library.

Eventually, two fold-down bunk beds were added. Abby’s father, Jason Stover, an employee of Pennichuck Water Works, and her sisters – Rachel, 16, and Anna, 11, – marveled as the workers did their part to make a little girl’s dream come true.

“It’s more than we could ever have asked for,” Abby’s father said.

Abby, a first-grader at Reeds Ferry Elementary School, said she has wanted a tree house for “a long, long, time.” Her wish was granted in time for her October birthday party, a festival of family and friends that turned into a grand-opening celebration for the completed tree house, a fully donated structure.

Jennifer watched Abby waving hello from one of the windows in the tree houses. She returned the girl’s wave and said her daughter was “ecstatic” at the finished project.

Susan Tardif, business manager for BT Construction & Remodeling, said she and her husband Brian, “the B in the BT company name,” have 17 years of experience in building. Susan is also a real-estate professional and a member of BNI, a business networking group that initially publicized the opportunity to help with Abby’s project. Entries on social media sites and word-of-mouth generated additional interest.

“We’ve done a lot of projects, but this is our first tree house,” Susan said.

“We ordered special hardware manufactured specifically for tree houses. The braces beneath the floor are built so they have some give as the tree sways. Abby made us feel blessed to have the talent that could be used to make her dream come true.”

Susan credited Elizabeth Schulte, director of wish granting at the Manchester Make-A-Wish, and her staff for “getting the ball rolling” on the tree house project. Susan said the several thousands of dollars in donated time and materials were well worth the look on Abby’s face as she entered the dream house.

Abby’s mom said youngsters with chronic diseases such as Cystic Fibrosis are “so happy” when a wish is granted.

She said Abby takes nine medications and twice a day wears a vest-like machine that generates vibrations helpful to keeping Abby’s lungs clear.

Nevertheless, she said her daughter is an active, happy child with lots of friends.

Jennifer is interrupted by a small voice making a big request. The request comes from Abby, standing in a bit of snow that had accumulated on the threshold of the doorway to the tree house.

“Can I sleep out here? I could look at the stars and the moon,” Abby said.

Her mom said, “Sure. But let’s wait for a warmer night.”

The Stover family welcomes support of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation by encouraging participation in an upcoming event, “Fair Share,” a Shorty’s Mexican Roadhouse fundraiser. It takes place Thursday, Nov. 29, at the Nashua Mall, 48 Gusabell Ave., in Nashua. That day, Shorty’s (store number 328) will donate 15 percent of sales on sit-down meals and take-out. Notify the server that you are there on behalf of the Cystic Fibrosis, so the funds may be included in the tally.

For more information about Make-A-Wish New Hampshire in Manchester or to make a donation, contact Jason Tremblay vis email to Ja son.Trem

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