Sequim boy gets big backyard surprise from Make-A-Wish Foundation
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Brody Neal, 5, of Sequim wears a firefighter’s helmet Sunday afternoon. The helmet was a custom gift from Port Angeles firefighters who helped to build a playhouse. He is pictured with his father, Shane Neal, right, and Port Angeles Fire Department firefighter Bryant Kroh, left. — Arwyn Rice/Peninsula Daily News

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

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SEQUIM — A pirate hideout, built for Brody Neil, 5, was unveiled in a Sequim back yard Sunday, thanks to Make-A-Wish Foundation.

A black pirate’s flag flew over the gray and black playhouse, which was perched on stilts with a wraparound porch, two windows, and a solid door with a “Brody’s House” sign announcing to the world that the young man was there to stay.

“It’s cool,” he exclaimed as he ran between the long slide and the ladder leading up to the porch.

The flag and paint job were the finishing touches completed Sunday morning while the Neil family was treated to a trip to the Olympic Game Farm and lunch at the Black Bear Diner.

The paint was still wet as volunteers furnished the playhouse with a beanbag chair, a child’s table, filled a sandbox under the playhouse with toys, and hoisted the pirate flag over the roof.

When the tow-headed preschooler was going through treatment for a cancerous brain tumor in 2012, his family applied for a wish through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and in July learned that he was granted a wish — “A playhouse like grandma’s.”

Grandma — Karen Kuznek-Reese — said Sunday that she has a playhouse that her children used, and it is popular with her grandchildren.

“I didn’t know he loved it that much,” Kusnek-Reese said.

When Brody and his family, dad Shane, mom Alicia, and sisters, Taylor, 2 1/2, Myah, 18 months, and Danny, 2 months, arrived at their home 50 W. Robert Place, they were greeted by the arrival of a Port Angeles Fire Department engine with six firefighters who took part in the construction, who gave him a custom fire helmet and let him climb into their truck.

Make-A-Wish volunteer Laura Shaw waited with anticipation for the final reveal of the completed playhouse.

“We get to see the child’s reaction. After trips we get to see pictures, but there is nothing like being there,” Shaw said.

The group came around the house, and long before most of the adults had rounded the corner, Brody had taken over the playhouse, running up the stairs and exploring the inside of the structure.

He didn’t waste much time on words, putting all of his energy into enjoying his new digs.

Brody is currently cancer-free, according to doctors who treated his tumor, but the family is still dealing with bills for the medical care he has received, and ongoing tests to make sure the cancer has not returned.

Donations to help the family can be made to Sound Community Bank, 541 N. Fifth Ave., and at Wells Fargo, 501 W. Washington St., in the name of of the Kuznek/Neal family.

Brody’s House was built by 12 members of the Port Angeles Fire Department, and funded by Make-A-Wish Foundation with help from donations by Thomas Building Center, Staples, Scott McLendon;s Hardware, Woodhouse Manor Playhouses, April Stein, Lowe’s of Port Orchard, D&K Rental, Blake Sand and Gravel, Home Depot, and Fred Meyer.


Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at

Last modified: January 26. 2014 7:22PM
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