5-year-old Spring cancer survivor given dream playhouse

When 5-year-old Aryan Rodriguez first developed a headache and nausea in December 2018, his mother Cynthia Rodriguez said doctors told her it was just a virus.

Despite the various virus and strep throat medications he was given over the next few months, Cynthia, a Spring resident, said her son still had a headache and would vomit if he tried to eat. It wasn’t until they went to Texas Children’s Hospital and had an X-ray of his head that they discovered he had a tumor in his brain.

“It broke our hearts,” Cynthia said. “We cried and he looked at us. He had no idea what awaited him.”

From there, she said, Aryan had surgery to remove the cancer from his brain and began chemotherapy. She said he’s been doing well lately, but was told the tumor could come back and Aryan should have regular MRIs.

Since recovering, Aryan has been able to have some fun at home thanks to a Make-A-Wish project, in which architectural firm Gensler designed a personalized “Toy Story” inspired playhouse where he can play with his friends.

“Toy Story” helped him a lot as he went through chemo,” his mother said. “He’s the one who showed us how to be strong. He told me it would be all right if he saw me cry, he would wipe my tears and everything. He always had his ‘Toy Story’ toys with him.”

The playhouse was built due to pandemic travel restrictions that prevented Aryan from making a trip to Disney World, Make-A-Wish’s most popular wish. Instead, he decided he wanted a playhouse.

The playhouse includes two slides, two swings, a tire swing, climbing frames and a climbing wall leading to a fortress on the second floor, as well as a picnic table where he and his friends can eat. The design team also incorporated some of his favorite movies and characters into the interior of the fortress.

“Aryan and his family are brave and resilient, and it has been an honor to meet and work with them,” said Kristopher Stuart, Gensler’s president. “We hope this playhouse will continue to encourage Aryan to believe that no dream or imagination is too big to come true.”

This playhouse is one of 20 playhouse wishes awarded by the Texas Gulf Coast & Louisiana Chapter of Make-A-Wish.

“We are grateful to Gensler, as well as our other community partners, who have helped bring these playhouse wishes to life,” said Yara Elsayed, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish Texas Gulf Coast & Louisiana.

Since he got the playhouse, Aryan’s mom says he loves and plays on it often and has made a difference since his cancer diagnosis.

“He’s happier,” she said. “He totally is.”


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