Izzy's Wish: Volunteers build playhouse for Charlestown girl battling cancer

·5 min read

Jul. 31—A 10-year-old Charlestown girl who is battling cancer made a wish — and now the community is making that wish come true.

The scent of fresh cut wood filled the air Thursday at the Bensonwood production facility in Keene as several volunteers wielding power tools put the finishing touches on a playhouse for Izzy Vigneau, who will enter 5th grade this year.

"We all kind of just jumped on board," said Jay Lepple, one of the about 30 volunteers from the commercial and home design company who volunteered their time and expertise to the project over several weeks.

Adam Myers, a building assistant and shop leader at Bensonwood, was cutting siding away to infill a piece of trim above the doorway of the playhouse.

"It's her wish and it's going to come true," he said.

This past January, Izzy was diagnosed with leukemia after she came home from school with bruising on her collarbone that quickly spread from head to toe, her mother, Tiffany Putnam-Vigneau told The Sentinel in the spring.

Over the past seven months, she has been in and out of the hospital as she has gone through several rounds of treatment, including chemotherapy, her father, John Vigneau said in a phone interview Saturday. She still has at least another two years of treatment ahead of her, Vigneau said.

"Izzy is a little shy but very artistic and outgoing. She's very grateful and kind. She loves to help others when she can," he said. "She's been through a lot; she's been through quite a bit with this treatment and deserves something for herself."

On Friday, the playhouse — which will be fully furnished, has heat and electricity and is insulated for the winter — will be delivered to Izzy's home in Charlestown.

Perhaps better described as a "she shed" or tiny home, the 10-foot-by-12-foot structure will soon be completed will have an attached deck and pink and blue furniture and decorations.

The project, which has been led by the Make-A-Wish Foundation of New Hampshire, brought together dozens of volunteers from the community and has been supported by donations from several area businesses.

Jane Williams, of Newbury, is one of two volunteer "Wish Granters" with the Make-A-Wish Foundation who met with Izzy and her family a few months ago to learn about Izzy's wish. In a phone interview Friday, Williams recalled Izzy opening up as they discussed her wish.

"All her passions were coming out and really what impressed me so much is that this is clearly coming from her — all of this is coming right from her," Williams said. "She's a cool kid and it was fun to see her enthusiasm come out into the open. It really let us tailor things so we knew this is what Izzy wants."

Originally, Izzy was thinking about wishing for a trip to Hawaii, where she has never been, Williams said. But as the Wish Granters talked with her, they learned about her dreams of having a space that she can make her own, leading to the idea of a playhouse.

With Izzy's wish in mind, the Make-A-Wish Foundation began searching for local businesses that could donate time and resources to making it come true. Among the businesses the nonprofit identified was Bensonwood, where Izzy's grandmother, Roxanne Faxon, works. Soon the business was on board, with employees volunteering a few hours of their time after work for the past month or so to get the project constructed.

"Izzy is fighting an incredible battle for her life and she is clearly a brave girl. The least we can do is bring a little bit of joy into her life and a little bit of peace," Tedd Benson, the owner and founder of Bensonwood said. "Our hope is this playhouse will be something good that happened to her in the midst of so many things that have been challenging for her in her family. Honestly it's a small thing but it's something we can do. Our deepest hope and prayer is that it will make a difference."

Among the companies that have supported the project are: Boise Cascade, based in Greenland, N.H.; the Keene-based Hamshaw Lumber; Perkins Home Center in West Chesterfield; Sherwin-Williams Paint Store; Green Mountain Electric; Tim Latham Electrical, out of Peterborough; the Stoddard-based Carlisle Wide Plank Floors; St. Pierre Inc., out of Charlestown; and several others.

"It's been quite the community project. Everyone has come together for it. It's been a wonderful thing," Faxon said. "Bensonwood has stepped up and beyond. It's been just a great outpouring of people."

Describing her granddaughter as kindhearted with a touch of sassiness, Faxon said Izzy is extremely excited for the project to come to fruition.

"She's looking for her own space, her own personality," she said. "When she gets better she is looking forward to having friends over for sleepovers. It's kind of a symbol of the future."

Once the playhouse is complete, it will be decked out with a swinging chair, a bed and a desk. Outside, there will be a hammock, a firepit, blue deck chairs and more.

"Izzy will be extremely excited. She'll probably want to spend most of her time down there. I think she'll be a little overwhelmed because its going to be a beautiful, beautiful thing," Faxon said. "As she grows older, I think she'll really understand the community outreach but I think just for now she'll be thrilled to have her own space."

Ryan Spencer can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1412, or rspencer@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter at