Jason Haney knows all too well what it’s like for kids to be stuck in a hospital. Haney’s daughter had a stroke while she was still in the womb. At the age of 3, she was diagnosed with brain damage that doctors said might permanently hinder her ability to learn beyond a third-grade level.
Haney remembers those extended stays in the hospital with his family and how hard it was to stay positive. So when he was hired to work on the construction project at Memorial Children’s Hospital, in South Bend, Indiana, the construction foreman did what he could to brighten the days of the children staying in the hospital.
It started with a snowman that Haney dressed up with a construction vest and hardhat.
“It was a huge hit,” Haney told ABC News.
But they didn’t get much snow after that, so Haney set up some inflatable snowmen and an inflatable Sponge Bob. As he was tying them down, one of the electricians joked that it would be funny if they had a ‘Where’s Waldo?’ on the site. When Haney got home, he immediately got to work on making a real-life Waldo character out of plywood and paint.
Haney started hiding Waldo around the construction site in April and the kids have been enthralled with it ever since.
“I’ve been watching the kids run over to the window and look out for Waldo,” Heidi Prescott, the hospital’s media relations specialist, told ABC News. “It truly brightens their day,” she added.
The game has become so popular that Haney even created a Facebook page giving the kids hints about where to find Waldo through photos and clues. The kids can then tag the pics once they find him.
“That’s my way of finding out if they’ve found it,” Haney said.
Despite the fact that Waldo is an unwieldy 8-feet tall and 50 or 60 pounds in weight, Haney plans to keep hiding him around the construction site for the kids to find. But he also has another surprise up his sleeve for the kids — he’s in the process of building a team of Minions to hide as well.
“They’re easier to carry,” he said.
Incidentally, Haney’s daughter — the one who doctors thought would have a permanent learning disability — well, she has graduated from high school with honors and is headed to Indiana’s Ball State University in the fall.
Because this story is just full of happy endings.