CHESAPEAKE, Va. - For many families, a playset is just a playset, but for others it is a symbol of hope. That's the case for 4-year-old Ryder Maguire and his family.
The energetic and fun-loving little boy was diagnosed with leukemia in December.
"He's tough as nails. He's definitely my little fighter," said his mother, Michelle Maguire. "It's just the empty feeling, like you don't have an answer for it; you don't know why it happened."
With the devastating news came the restrictions: Ryder couldn’t go back to school or go to public playgrounds and play places. His mother said he also can't swim in the ocean or spend much time at the beach.
However, in the darkness there have been glimpses of light. Community members have come out of the woodwork to help the family, including the Roc Solid Foundation.
Like the organization does for all families whose children have been diagnosed with cancer, they gave Michelle and Ryder a "ready bag." Inside was everything they might need for their unexpected hospital stays: Toiletries, a blanket, a journal, a tablet and more. In fact, since the COVID-19 pandemic started, they have been able to increase production and supply more bags for families.
When it comes to Ryder's journey, the foundation's latest act of kindness was building him a brand new playset. During a time when Ryder has really been stuck inside the house, a swing set is more important than ever.
"We really believe in the power of play. When kids are playing, cancer is the last thing on their minds," said Ashley Martin, the Director of Communication with the Roc Solid Foundation.
COVID-19 caused some delays, but on Saturday volunteers built a new playset as Ryder watched from the window.
In addition to his already existing rules and a worldwide pandemic, having a safe haven just steps away has left his mother speechless.
"Having a place out in our backyard - having a safe place for Ryder to play, not having to worry about germs were other kids or things like that - it's really, really amazing," Michelle said as Ryder laughed and slid down the slide.
As if the playset wasn't special enough, volunteers left small messages inside to show Ryder a little bit of love as he's outside playing.
"It doesn’t end when we leave that day. That hope stays with them; that playset stays with them for years to come," Martin said.
With tears in her eyes, Michelle said, "it’s very overwhelming, in a good way, to know that there are so many people out there doing so many wonderful things for families like mine."
Her smiling, spitfire son is overcoming cancer and COVID one day at a time.
If your child is fighting cancer here are some local organizations that can offer support: