For young cancer patient, playhouse is a place of joy

Emily Gillespie / The (Corvallis) Gazette-Times /


Published May 1, 2011 at 05:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

CORVALLIS — Standing 3 feet tall, Lilli Trippe pranced through her playhouse wearing a purple Rapunzel dress.

The playhouse is fit for a princess: The walls are painted pink, cupcake curtains hang from the window and three chairs small enough for a 3-year-old sit on the floor boasting Hello Kitty upholstery.

“She loves her playhouse,” said Lilli’s mom, Kristin Trippe, of Kings Valley.

For Kristin Trippe and her husband, Aaron, the playhouse is yet another sign of how their community has come together to offer support for their daughter, who was diagnosed with leukemia at 8 months.

“You go through life and you don’t see the support network until something like this happens,” she said. “It just blossoms. It doesn’t make it go away, but it makes it so much better.”

Since her diagnosis, Lilli has had two bone-marrow transplants, survived two cardiac arrests and endured countless hours of chemotherapy and blood transfusions. Her diagnosis is terminal. She is currently on an experimental treatment.

Despite the looming worries of cancer cells, Lilli continues to dress up as a princess and enjoys each moment of every day.

“She finds happiness everywhere she goes,” Kristin Trippe said. “She has no idea that this is not how life is supposed to be.”

The playhouse was Lilli’s second gift from the Children’s Cancer Association. Her first was a trip to Disney World last July. That’s where she got the idea to have her own playhouse.

To help complete the house, staff members from the Children’s Cancer Association contacted Home Depot, and that’s when Chris Evans, contractor desk supervisor at the company’s Corvallis store, first encountered Lilli.

“She’s a glowing ray of sunshine, and I’m happy to have crossed paths with her,” Evans said.

Evans spearheaded the building of Lilli’s playhouse, contacting Home Depot vendors and contractors to find donors for the materials.

When Corvallis Home Depot employees asked Lilli what she wanted in her playhouse, she rattled off a long list of features, including a play kitchen, a loft with a bed, a fireplace and a small television.

When the house was finished — a painting party earlier this month applied the final touches — everything on Lilli’s list was there.

“They got her everything,” said a surprised Kristin Trippe.

Lilli helped as well: “I used my hammer named Pat and I hammered some nails,” she said.

The building project took four days at the end of March, and last weekend’s painting party was held in conjunction with a barbecue put on by Kristin Trippe to thank the volunteers.

And the project came with a bonus for Kristin and Aaron Trippe: The team of volunteers spruced up the Trippes’ yard, adding rows of flowers and trimming trees.

The playhouse is “something just for Lilli,” Evans explained. “We wanted to do something for Aaron and Kristin, so we thought we’d give joy to the whole yard.”

Kristin Trippe said she is extremely grateful for the support that she has received over the years from both close friends and people she just met, such as Evans and the Home Depot volunteers.

“It makes you see how much good people have inside of them,” she said. “I’d give up the cancer in a minute, but it’s really shifted my perspective on the community. They’ve given me such a tremendous gift.”