Enquirer Herald

3-year-old York cancer survivor gets wish for backyard playground

Lyla Juarez and her parents had a rough time after she was diagnosed with cancer at 15 months. She had chemo and surgery for a grapefruit-sized tumor in her abdomen.

On Thursday, more than two dozen volunteers gave Lyla and her parents a reason to smile.

Three-year-old Lyla, in remission after her battle with neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer, received a playground in the backyard of her Georgia Street home in York. Her wish was granted by Make-A-Wish of South Carolina.

And Lyla’s is not just any play set.

The 21-foot set that Lyla and her parents chose from Home Depot is a self-contained playground, with swings, slides, a climbing area, a bridge and a tower. A trampoline from another company, JumpSport, is to be delivered later this week.

Some 30 volunteers with area Home Depot stores, including the one in Rock Hill, showed up Thursday to install the playground. Home Depot teamed up with Make-A-Wish to make Lyla’s dream happen.

“It’s really nice that they can come out and do things like this for a family that has been through tough times,” said Lyla’s mother, Carla Juarez.

“And she’s super excited,” Carla said. “I love to see her smile.”

Carla, 26, and her husband, Byron, 34, stood in their backyard with Lyla on Thursday as the playground started to take shape.

“It’s amazing,” said Byron.

Volunteer Heather Sloop, assistant manager of the Rock Hill Home Depot store, said employees were happy to pitch in when Make-A-Wish asked the company for help.

“It’s just awesome to be able to be part of being able to make her wish come true,” Sloop said.

In August 2013, at 15 months old, Lyla was diagnosed with a tumor in her abdomen. Lyla had started to have symptoms two months before that. Her belly, legs and eyes were swollen, she was tired, and she didn’t want to eat, Carla said.

After she was diagnosed at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, Lyla had 10 rounds of chemotheraphy, shrinking her tumor to the size of a walnut, Carla said.

In April 2014, Lyla she had surgery at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., to remove the rest of the tumor. Carla said doctors got all of the tumor and Lyla is in remission.

“It was hard,” Carla said about Lyla’s cancer battle. “She was born healthy, and just one day, everything changed. It was very scary.”

Carla said Lyla had enjoyed playing at the York Recreation Complex during her illness. She was referred to Make-A-Wish, which grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions.

Make-A-Wish volunteer Sandy Shaffer, from Lake Wylie, helped Lyla and her family choose a wish.

Carla said the family talked about a trip. However, she said Lyla had enjoyed the playground so much. “We felt like this, she could enjoy a lot more, for a longer time.”

Jennifer Becknell: 803-329-4077