Everyday that volunteers worked in his backyard, Brody Neal, 5, sat on his back deck waiting in anticipation for his dream to come true.
Now that dream is nearly here.
Brody, a brain cancer survivor, officially receives a brand new treehouse on Jan. 26 at his home off Woodcock Road through the Make-A-Wish-Foundation, which grants wishes of children diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions. Volunteers with the Port Angeles Fire Department constructed it for him.
Alicia Neal, Brody’s mom, said while Brody was receiving treatment at Seattle Children’s, people continued to tell them about Make-A-Wish and an anesthesiologist put in the request on Brody’s behalf.
When asked why he wanted a treehouse, Brody replied, “Because I like tree houses,” he said. “Grandma has one.”
His new treehouse will feature a slide, a porch that goes all around, a sandbox underneath and a flagpole for Brody’s pirate flag, all at his request.
“One of our favorite things was going to the park while in Seattle,” Alicia said. “We used to sing all the way there.”
Brody began treatment for both a primitive neuroectodermal tumor (PNET) and a mixed glioma tumor between stages 3 or 4 on Oct. 8, 2012, at Seattle Children’s. He alternated between three months of chemotherapy, nearly two months of radiation and nearly three more more months of chemotherapy through May 28, 2013.
Alicia said they first saw an issue with Brody on April 26, 2012, after he awoke from a nap vomiting and with chills and later became lethargic and incoherent. Brody’s family took him to the doctor for tests before a neurologist performed brain scans to find a tumor on Brody’s left temporal lobe in July 2012. On Sept. 6, 2012, surgeons performed craniotomy and tumor resection surgery with success but several small cancer cells were found later leading to the chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
Brody saw doctors in December 2013 and was determined to be cancer free, Alicia said.
A call to help
Barbara Carlson, the Port Angeles Make-A-Wish coordinator, said the word went out via Facebook and the Port Angeles Fire Department responded.
“They took this on with the kindness of their heart,” she said.
Kelly Ziegler, with the Port Angeles Fire Department, said his wife answered the call for him and he recruited a dozen other firefighters to help.
“We’ve done a few of these projects before with the department,” he said. “It’s great. We love it. We’ve taken (Brody) on a few mini tours.”
The crew set posts on Jan. 11 and continued on the project Jan. 15 and 17 with a paint crew set for completion on Jan. 24.
Ziegler said they made some minor changes to the treehouse plans to extend the roof and make it more “Northwest-friendly.”
“We kind of over-built it,” he said. “You could drive a truck on it.”
Brody has gotten to play in his treehouse a little bit but Alicia said he’s going to stay off of it until Jan. 26.
Looking back at his time in Seattle, Brody said, “It feels good to be home.”
Until his treehouse is finished, he plans to keep playing outside with his dad Shane, ride his bike and keep playing with cars.
Inside the Neal home is a busy one with Alicia caring for Brody’s three sisters — Taylor, 2 1/2, Myah, 1 1/2 and newborn Danny, 2 months old.
“It’s nuts,” Brody said.
In 2012, Sequim community members held a dinner/auction and a golf tournament to help with medical expenses. The Neals continue to receive medical bills for Brody’s treatment and donations are accepted on behalf of the Kuznek/Neal family at Sound Community Bank, 541 N. Fifth Ave.
His Make-A-Wish presentation is not open to the public out of respect for the family.
Read more on the Make-A-Wish Foundation at wish.org.