From the moment you meet her, little Brielle will tug on your heartstrings. Her favorite thing to do is play and explore but, due to her medical condition, she spends most of her time at home.
“Brielle was diagnosed with a very rare cellular disease when she was born,” said her mom, Kimberly. “She’s the only child in Arizona with her condition, and the life expectancy is only about 3 to 5 years. Dealing with this has been so emotionally difficult, and we have to work very hard to protect her physical health, too.”
When Brielle’s doctor referred her for a wish, Kimberly had never heard of Make-A-Wish Arizona before.
“Most people have a hard time understanding our struggles and Brielle’s condition so we didn’t know what to expect,” said Kimberly. “Brielle can only say a few words and has a hard time communicating on her own, but we all knew what she would want most – a place to play.”
Brielle, who uses a walker, has always been limited in her house because it’s too small for her to move around. She loves being outdoors, but with a yard full of cacti and dirt, Brielle’s safety was continuously at risk.
Her wish – to have a backyard she could play in – was the perfect solution.
“We were actually inspired by the playground at Ryan House,” said Kimberly. “It’s one of the few places where Brielle’s face will light up and I can tell she’s truly happy. We hoped to bring elements of the playground to our own home.”
And so planning for Brielle’s new backyard began. Soon enough, community members heard about Brielle’s wish and quickly jumped in to offer their support.
And the result was pretty amazing.
"This was my first experience working with Make-A-Wish Arizona and I would do it again in a heartbeat!" said Ryan Riecks of AZ-RYs Landscaping and Design. "Growing up, I had a friend with a similar condition to Brielle's so her wish spoke right to me."
Ryan, along with more than 10 other Maricopa and Phoenix-based companies, worked together with local volunteers to create numerous areas and attractions for Brielle.
“We were told the project would take 3-4 days, but thanks to everyone’s help, we ended up completing the yard in one Saturday!” said Kimberly. “My other daughter’s soccer team planted flowers, neighbors stopped by to help; even the Fire Dept. was there!”
"Everyone stepped up to make Brielle's wish come true," said Beth Huerta of Global Water Resources, Inc., who helped oversee the project. "We all worked together to accomplish something great and I've actually become good friends with Brielle's family since her wish."
Brielle’s yard now includes a track for her wheeled walker; play areas specifically built for Brielle; a shaded gazebo section for her to cool down; busy boxes and other sensory items; and, - of course - a spot for her parents to relax and watch Brielle enjoy it all.
“I know some renovation wishes have a surprise reveal at the end, but I think this backyard means even more to us because we all helped create it,” said Kimberly. “We are so grateful. There’s nothing we will ever be able to do to repay everyone who helped Brielle’s wish come true.”
Community partners from the project, like Christopher Magdaleno of Suntec Concrete, are proud they could create a yard Brielle and her family will enjoy for many years to come.
"Watching Brielle play in her backyard makes it all worthwhile," said Christopher. "It was gratifying to see how all our hard work made this little girl so happy."
Since the big day, Brielle is constantly playing outside in her new yard and Kimberly has even noticed a physical change in her daughter.
“Brielle’s wish got her moving, something she couldn’t do before,” said Kimberly. “Now I see her walking - even running - around in the backyard and her therapist says it’s building her strength.”
“This is a wish Brielle will be able to enjoy every single day and we are so happy we get to share these experiences with her,” she continued. “It has truly opened up her world.”