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Fairy garden a wish come true for Avery

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The air of anticipation in the Evans household was almost too much to bear.

As designers and a mural artist worked on a new playroom for cancer patient Avery Evans last week, the New Richmond family was relegated to the upstairs to keep the progress a secret.

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"We're super excited," admitted Jenn Evans, Avery's mother. "We can't keep Madelyn (Avery's sister) out of the basement. It's been a challenge because she wants to see what's going on."

The family was granted a wish by the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Wisconsin, which often coordinates trips and other events for seriously ill youngsters.

But due to Avery's fragile health, Matt and Jenn Evans decided a new playroom made more sense for her.

"Trips are wonderful but we thought this was better than a trip," Jenn explained. "It's something that she can use every day. We wanted something that would last a lifetime for her."

Besides, Jenn said, her daughter is the most happy when she's home and playing with her sister, so the playroom was the perfect fit.

The family learned in January that their wish would be granted and planning for the project has been ongoing ever since. For several weeks leading up to the project, boxes were shipped to the Evans's home for use in the playroom. The family was instructed not to open any of them, which added to the growing anticipation.

Nationally known interior designer Sherri Blum of Jack & Jill Interiors, Pennsylvania, who has designed nurseries and playrooms for celebrities such as Tori Spelling, Mario Lopez and Angela Kinsey, was called in to help with the project.

"Initially we were just going to be part of the planning and designing," Blum said. "But we fell in love with the project and wanted to be part of the installation."

Blum's assistant, Lisa O'Brien, came along for the two-day process of creating the fairy garden in the Evans' basement.

Mural artist Patrice Hoban, New York City, was invited to be part of the effort as well. Her colorful, hand-painted fairy garden mural eventually covered an entire wall of the playroom.

"This is our first time doing a Make-A-Wish project," Blum said. "We've loved being a part of it."

Work on the playroom finished up Tuesday night, Aug. 2. An official "unveiling" ceremony was held Wednesday with Make-A-Wish officials on hand.

A crowd of about 30 people attended the big event. The reaction to the finished project was what volunteers had hoped for.

Jenn gasped and covered her mouth in amazement. The kids scrambled to try out the various parts of the playroom.

Among the highlights of the fairy garden is a life-sized tree in the corner, the huge mural, a sturdy playhouse, a tea party table, a fairy dress-up area and a special reading nook.

Avery was quick to sound her approval. She walked up to her grandmother, gave her a hug and proclaimed, "Avery's happy."

"This is the awesomest place in the whole world," sister Maddie declared.

"It's more than I ever could have imagined," Jenn added. "We're so grateful that there's such an organization like this (Make-A-Wish) that grants wishes."

The Make-A-Wish gift comes just days after the Evans family celebrated a huge milestone in their daughter's recovery. Avery turned 3 years old on June 25.

"She wasn't supposed to make it to her third birthday," Jenn said recounting the initial diagnosis of inoperable cancer a little over a year ago.

Thanks to ongoing treatment from St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., which has included 30 radiation treatments, Avery is making some significant progress in her recovery.

The brain stem tumor, which has affected Avery's development, speech and motor skills, has shrunk by about 75 percent. With ongoing physical therapy, Avery is walking and talking much better now.

"Her personality is back," Jenn declared. "And she's a comic."

The family is hoping for even more good news in September when Avery returns for a check-up at St. Jude's.

"Miracles do happen," Jenn said. "We're hoping and praying that there's more tumor shrinkage ... or there's a miracle and God makes it disappear."

To continue to help the Evans family with medical expenses, family and friends have scheduled a pizza party fundraiser from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10, at the Hudson United Methodist Church, 1401 Laurel Ave. The event will include food, games and a silent auction.

For donations or more information, contact Melissa Chapman at 715-781-1490 or mchapman@frontiernet.net.

Make-A-Wish

Make-A-Wish Foundation of Wisconsin grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.

Since the Wisconsin chapter was founded in 1984, more than 4,000 families statewide can attest to the power of a wish. Last year, the chapter granted a record-breaking 318 wishes and currently more than 250 Wisconsin children are in the process of having their special wishes granted.

For more information about Make-A-Wish Foundation of Wisconsin or to learn how you can make a difference, call 800-236-WISH or visit www.wiscon sin.wish.org.

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