"Jack's Shack," a 200-square-foot, bi-level wood playhouse nestled high in the pines, has become a reality for Jack Dorr, a 10-year-old Ashland boy fighting off life-threatening brain cancer for the past year.
Between trips to Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland for clinical trials, Jack plays with Legos, Star Wars action figures and video games and now can get some chill time with his buddies in his new "boy cave," built gratis by Adroit Construction of Ashland.
"It's amazing, so cool. It has a loft. It's a lot bigger than I thought it would be," Jack said at a Thursday house-warming party with mom Trish, sister Alex, 8, and many of the local people who made it happen.
Especially welcome in his new digs was his pet ball python, a nonvenomous snake from Africa, which wrapped around his neck as he trooped up the balloon-lined stairs.
The beautifully built structure, using more than $25,000 worth of labor and materials, was made possible by a gift from the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Portland.
"We donated everything for Jack's Shack and ran it like a regular construction project for any client — and the client was Jack," said Travis Christian of Adroit.
Working from plans drawn up by Kistler, Small + White, crews built the playhouse using vertical grain cedar. It includes a metal roof, gutters, staircase, windows with a view and garden beds behind. The front is accented by slanting wood columns.
"It's fantastic, beautiful, way more than what we expected," said Trish, a fifth-grade teacher at Helman Elementary School.
Trish was celebrating more than a new playhouse. Trish and Jack had just gotten back from Portland, where they learned Wednesday that Jack's tumor, called an astrocytoma, had been pronounced stable (not growing) after an MRI.
"We just hope it stays stable," she said.
Rick McKee of Adroit worked on building the playhouse every day for four weeks.
"It was a great design and a fun project to work on," McKee said. Assisting as his senior project at North Medford High School was Michael Jones. Parr Lumber in Medford donated the wood. Many others helped with the playhouse and many fundraising events have been staged in the past year.
The cancer was diagnosed 14 months ago when Jack had trouble using his right hand. A tumor was immediately removed, followed by many radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
Donations for Jack's treatment may be made at http://tinyurl.com/nus3l4f. It has a goal of $20,000 and is a third of the way there.
Trish Dorr keeps a journal about Jack at CaringBridge (http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/jackdorr).
Her latest entry said, "Yesterday morning, the oncologist walked into the room, sanitizing her hands as she did so. The nurse was busy finishing Jack's blood draw, and the oncologist announced, 'Well, the tumor looks stable,' which I had to ask her to repeat. Really? Stable? ... I had headed into this one with worry. ... So I am excited! Elated! Over the moon, really, to have such a positive report from the MRI."
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.