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Operation Playhouse Build gives back to veteran’s daughter

by | Jun 11, 2024 | Education, Featured: Education

Habitat Playhouse

Hopkinton High School students (from left) Zachary Krymgold, Prithvi Venkatesh, Joshua Brum (sitting), Anay Pachori, May Chen and Abran Rayen stand next to the playhouse they put together. PHOTO/JOHN CARDILLO

A little girl named Fiona got her dream playhouse, built like a castle with space for her to be a princess and even a bed for her pet dog to join in the fun.

Making that happen were 14 members of the Habitat for Humanity club at Hopkinton High School who last month participated in Operation Playhouse Build with help from the organization’s MetroWest/Greater Worcester chapter.

The program has the high school students create and decorate a playhouse of approximately 4 feet by 5 feet from a kit and donate it to a veteran’s family.

This time, that retired veteran was Lisa O’Sullivan, who lives in Baldwinville. Between the Army and Army National Guard, she served for a total of 20 years.

Her deployments included tours in Iraq and Kuwait.

“I heard about the opportunity through another veteran who had twin girls that they did a build for. She told me how wonderful it was, so I ended up looking it up,” O’Sullivan explained.

She said her 4-year-old, Fiona, loves playing outside, but she did not have any outdoor playhouses.

“She loves to build forts to make pretend houses. I thought a playhouse would be a great fit for her,” O’Sullivan said.

HHS English teacher and club advisor Samantha Breen said the students took turns working on the project, taking morning or afternoon shifts, with some staying the entire day.

Habitat Playhouse

Hopkinton High School students Prithvi Venkatesh (left) and Joshua Brum show the playhouse to Army veteran Lisa O’Sullivan and her daughter, Fiona. PHOTO/JOHN CARDILLO

The playhouse comes in pieces. Its roof needed shingling, and the teenagers also painted and designed the structure to resemble a castle. Students age 18 and older were allowed to use a drill, but that is usually left to the adults on the scene.

HHS senior Roma Tewari helped with the nail drill for a while but found it difficult to hold it straight, so she went back to painting, depicting bricks on the outside of the house and decorating the inside to match the castle theme.

The club’s co-president, Tewari said she joined as a freshman because she wanted to get more involved in the Hopkinton community. She added, “The organization’s mission stood out to me.”

Sophomore Abran Rayen joined the Habitat for Humanity club last year because many of his friends were members, and also because he liked the club’s focus on helping people.

“On the day of the build, I painted mainly and assisted with nailing the shingles to the roofing,” Rayen said. “I liked seeing the excitement of the family who received the house.”

Breen said that Fiona was not told what was happening, only that it was a surprise. She said when the family arrived at Marathon School after the build, the 4-year-old gasped, “Is that my surprise?”

“She was shy at first when the kids presented it to her, but once they got down on her level and showed her everything inside, she was very excited and couldn’t believe it was hers,” O’Sullivan said.

“She loves the lights and all the princess play stuff she got to decorate her house with and has invited her whole family into her house to help her decorate it,” she added.

Breen noted it is good for the high school students to see the impact of their work and the smiles on the faces of the family members who are the recipients.

“It is super rewarding to experience that excitement,” Breen said.

Sophomore Sophie Barbosa and freshman Sakethsai Gudempati were among the students who participated, mainly painting the playhouse. Both cited a desire to help the community as a reason for joining the club.

As for the best part of Operation Playhouse Build, Barbosa said it was seeing the family’s reaction.

“I got to meet the high schoolers who did the build and they are an amazing, great group of kids,” O’Sullivan said. “They did an excellent job on the house and really seemed to care about Fiona and what she likes.”

She added, “It’s amazing that they came out to do this build a day after the prom.”

A ceremony was held at the end of the day where O’Sullivan’s family was presented with a certificate. “It was great. The whole thing was very well organized,” the Army veteran said.

The high school club boasts around 50 members with about 15-20 regulars who hold fundraisers throughout the year such as a gingerbread house decorating event and Krispy Kreme Donut sale.

They used those funds to embellish the castle, stringing lights, making a sign, purchasing princess-related items and including a bean bag and dog bed, because Fiona spends a lot of time with her pet.

“This program is an awesome way to give back to the community and veterans’ families,” Breen added.

Habitat Playhouse

Hopkinton High School students Maya Schnur (left) and Hailey LaMachia pose with playhouse recipient Fiona O’Sullivan. PHOTO/JOHN CARDILLO

1 Comment

  1. Ray Peterson

    Great job! What a wonderful way to give back to the community. Be proud.


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