Construction worker Jason Haney just earned himself some major cool points with the kids at South Bend, Indiana’s Memorial Children’s Hospital.
For the pasts few weeks, the kids have awoken from their hospital beds and gone to the window to partake in a real-world game of Where’s Waldo. Jason Haney took it upon himself to brighten the day of children who need some cheering up, by constructing a giant wooden cutout of the popular character, and hiding it around a construction site across the street from the hospital. It has quickly become very popular amongst the young patients.
“You walk into the pediatrics unit and you ask the kids, ‘Where’s Waldo?’, and we have seen children in the play area or their rooms run up to the window and look out,” said Heidi Prescott, a hospital spokeswoman.
Haney hides the 8-foot-tall cutout of the popular stripped sweater-wearing Waldo somewhere in the unfinished building every few days, challenging the kids to see if they can find him. Once all the kids have had their chance to find Waldo, Haney hides the cutout somewhere else and the game starts all over again.
The idea to build a game that would help break up the boredom of the children in the hospital started in the winter, when Haney and his daughter Taylor made a snowman in the building’s lot, and put a hard hat and vest on it. Next came an inflatable SpongeBob Squarepants character that the children had to spot.
The struggle that the children in the hospital and their parents are going through isn’t foreign to Haney. His daughter suffered a stroke while in utero. Doctors told Haney and his wife when Taylor was 3 years old that she had damage on the left side of her brain, and probably wouldn’t be able to move past 3rd grade. Taylor turned 18 and graduated high school this past spring.
The building that Haney is working on is scheduled to be completed by March, but in the meantime, Haney and Taylor are working on a few more surprises. The father and daughter are planning to work on a project involving the popular Minons next.
The real-life Waldo game has become so popular that Haney started a Facebook group, where kids can post photos of them looking out their windows to find Waldo. The gesture of kindness has also made Haney quite popular with the children. “The other day a girl who is about 10 years old was getting chemo, and you could just see her eyes light up when she met Jason,” Prescott said. “You would’ve thought he was the biggest rock star. What Jason is doing is far and above what any construction worker would normally do.”
For Jason Haney, who knows all too well what it can be like to have a sick child in the hospital, projects like ‘Where’s Waldo’ is worth spending the time. He admits it himself though, he didn’t expect it to be such a hit. “I can’t believe a simple piece of wood can bring so much happiness,” said Haney.