Dreams do come true
Make-A-Wish Foundation to make a dream reality for young Scugog boy

Sep 26, 2006

By Chris Hall
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SCUGOG -- The simple pleasure of playing in the backyard with his younger sister will soon become a reality for Hayden MacIntyre.

Confined mostly to his home due to a rare illness which has all but sapped his muscle strength, the ability to enjoy the outdoors with his family has been but a dream for six-year-old Hayden, who was diagnosed with the neuromuscular disease spinal muscular atrophy just before he turned a year old.

That dream, however, came one step closer to fruition on Tuesday as a large crowd of volunteers came together at the MacIntyre home to officially mark the beginning of the creation of 'Hayden's Wish Garden' through the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Canada.

While the MacIntyre's backyard looked a little roughed up this week -- orange spray-painted lines marked the perimeter of the garden and two Caterpillar earth-movers sat at the ready to begin removing sod -- the family was clearly looking forward to next spring when, if all goes as planned, Hayden's garden will be completed.

Celia Klemenz / Metroland Durham Region Media Group SCUGOG -- Hayden McIntyre, centre, and his parents Tina and Ian, and sister Lauren turn the sod on Hayden's 'Wish Garden'. The garden is a wish granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation as it was Hayden's desire to be able to play in his backyard with his sister. Many representatives from the organizations involved in making Hayden's wish come true were on hand to share in the event held recently at the MacIntyre's home. Sept. 26, 2006

Plans drafted up by landscape designer Jennifer Hayman for the project feature the installation of paved and lighted pathways that will be easily maneuverable by Hayden in his wheelchair; a playground area with an accessible sandbox and wheelchair swing; and waterfalls, a gazebo and sculptures, all surrounded by flowers and ornamental grass aimed at attracting birds and butterflies.

"I had no words when I first saw the designs," says Hayden's father, Ian MacIntyre. "I thought it would just be a couple of paths to a small garden, but they've transformed Hayden's wishes into a plan and I had no words when I first saw it. I just hugged (Ms. Hayman, the designer)."

A disease which ravages the nerves that controls the body's muscles and leaves those affected with only a fraction of their muscle mass, spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) has left Hayden in a wheelchair because he is unable to walk or sit up unsupported. It has also left him in need of special equipment necessary for tasks such as eating and sleeping, making a simple trip outdoors a hefty chore for both him and his family.

"All our lives we've been trying to make everything accessible for him, but we've been mostly indoors. Our home... we call it our bubble, our realm, and the backyard's been off-limits for the most part," says Mr. MacIntyre.

All of that will now change, however, thanks to the work of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and those who have chipped in to grant Hayden's wish: Caterpillar of Canada, the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association, OGS Landscaping, Battlefield Equipment and Ms. Hayman.

Construction on the garden commenced Tuesday, with work expected to continue through the fall. The finishing touches will be added early next spring.

"Wow, this is so life-altering," adds Hayden's mother, Tina. "It's very hard to believe that Hayden's single wish to be outside with his sister and to be with her has been transformed into this amazing plan. He'll be able to be outside and we can let our six-year-old boy be a six-year-old boy."

Also sporting a wide grin on Tuesday was the foundation's Brigitte Tschinkel, a director of corporate development with Make-A-Wish but, more recently, a wish-granter.

"Hayden's wish is the first one I'm granting, so it's a very special thing," says Ms. Tschinkel, who noted the day's activities wouldn't be possible without the help of all volunteers and companies involved.

"For them to come together and make this happen for Hayden is magical," she says.

For Jason Becker, of Caterpillar Canada, the choice to help out was an easy one.

"We've been working with the Make-A-Wish Foundation for months to see where we can help make a wish and dreams come true," says Mr. Becker. "To have people understand Hayden's situation is important, but what's even more important than building the 'Wish Garden' for him is that we're giving him the autonomy to go outside. It's great that he made this wish for his sister -- for his entire family -- and not just himself."