When the pediatric patients on the sixth floor of the Memorial Children's Hospital in South Bend, Indiana would look out their windows, all they could see was the wooden skeleton of the construction site across the street. Thanks to the creativity and selflessness of Jason Haney, a worker on the current expansion of the hospital, the children now have a fun and exciting mission when they look out the windows of their room: find Waldo.
Haney is no stranger to the hardship that comes with a child being bedridden in a hospital. Many years ago, his own daughter needed extended care from another children's hospital after she suffered from a stroke at age three. He says the idea for Waldo just came to him as a way to cheer up the children during a time of pain or sadness. “I just want to make kids smile and make them feel better,” Haney said to CNN. With the help of his daughter, Haney created an 8-foot-tall wooden cut-out of the beloved candy-striped children's book character. Of his Waldo creation, Haney says in an interview with the Huffington Post, “He’s 50, 60 pounds and he’s awkward to carry. But it’s worth it for the kids.” Each day, he nestles Waldo into a new spot of the construction site—within perfect eyeshot of the hospital's sixth floor residents. The hospital even has a Facebook page for children to post to when they've found Waldo.
This daily hide-and-seek ritual has become more than just a silly game for the children to play, though. It's become a beacon of hope that there's life outside of the hospital. Waldo has become a welcome distraction from treatments and appointments. It's something that families can do together. According to CNN affiliate WSBT, a patient's mother said of Haney's Waldo project: “When [my daughter] woke up in the morning she said, ‘Where's Waldo? Where's Waldo?' That helped a lot. Just knowing that she was more focused on that than focused on treatments.” The patients themselves think that Haney is a superstar. They call him “the man who built Waldo” and send him special messages, like this one by patient Nevaeh: “Thank you for building Waldo and for being happy. Thank you for making me happy.”
Haney is planning even more happiness for the future of Memorial Children's Hospital. Rumor has it—Minions may be involved!
Can you find Waldo?
All images via Where's Waldo.. Memorial Children's Hospital.