'Playing It Forward': Young Cancer Patient Surprised With the Gift of Play Time

Gabriella LaPointe playing on her new swing set. Photo: ABC7

For three-year-old Gabriella LaPointe today, for once, wasn’t about cancer or chemo. It was about slides and swings.

In March “Gabby” was diagnosed with leukemia. In the months since she has been through two six-week long rounds of chemotherapy and faces a tough battle ahead with cancer.

Her father, Stephen LaPointe of Gaithersburg, Maryland, says at times his daughter seems like a “little pin cushion,” even though she’s nearly oblivious to what her diagnosis really means.

“She just knows that she has to go to the doctor and go to the clinic and go to the hospital. She is sort of a little pin cushion at times,” LaPointe says.

Today the community, along with the Roc Solid Foundation, gave her the most natural medicine possible: letting a kid just be a kid.

Gabby and her family were surprised at their family’s home with a backyard makeover, complete with a new wooden play set all built, installed and presented by neighbors and friends.

“Just for her to be able to take her mind off of treatment and be a little kid I think is so rewarding,” volunteer Carlos Evans who helped assemble the surprise today said, “Being able to spread a little joy for someone that’s fighting this disease.”

Volunteer Faith Poe says there’s a sense of “sympathy” she feels for someone so young to be stricken with such a deadly disease.

“She’s helpless,” Poe said, “And so as a community we’re able to come in and kind of help her, to at least be happy.”

Eric Newman founded the Roc Solid Foundation in 2007. He is a pediatric cancer survivor himself so he knows first hand the kid-centric things the littlest patients need outside of the hospital. His foundation has hosted over thirty of these “Play it Forward” events.

“What we try to do at the Roc Solid Foundation is to try to make sure they don’t lose their childhood by building them a swing set and giving them a safe haven,” Newman said.

For the LaPointe family the swing set represents hope. Not only that Gabby will enjoy the swing set now, but that one day eventually she will grow too old for it.

“This is a manifestation of the love and the support,” her father said, “It’s going to help her be able to say ‘I want to go play’ and that’s the idea – to be a child.”

Gabby will start her third round of chemotherapy treatment this Monday. But for the time being, is focused on playing in her new backyard swing set this weekend.