Monday, November 28, 2011



Avery Whitfield, 5, shows off her new playhouse. New Life Apostolic Church members are building playhouses for children battling illnesses every month this year.
Avery Whitfield, 5, shows off her new playhouse. New Life Apostolic Church members are building playhouses for children battling illnesses every month this year.

WATKINSVILLE — The New Life Apostolic Church congregation still misses Madison Young, the 15-year-old Monroe girl who died in a four-wheeler accident two months ago. The wound still is fresh, but the Watkinsville church has found a way to heal while honoring a fallen member.
In October, New Life started the M.Y. Playhouse Project, which is named after Young. For the next year, the church will present one custom-built playhouse to a child battling a serious health condition.
Earlier this month, 5-year-old Avery Whitfield held on to her father’s neck as the family stood in between a crowd of about 100 and a large blue tarp. Her shyness turned to a wide smile as the tarp came off she saw her dream playhouse. Before long, she and other children were playing inside, spinning pinwheels and peeking out the windows.
“I won’t be able to get her out of this,” said Laurie Whitfield, Avery’s mother. “Today is a dream come true for her.”
Scott and Misty Clack, who own Clack Construction Co., started the project as a new church outreach initiative. The Clacks and their employees build the playhouses with materials donated from different business and hardware stores.
The finished building then gets a trip to a donated warehouse off Georgia Highway 316 where New Life student ministry members paint and decorate it however the receiving child wants it. A few days before, the child actually colors in a picture of the playhouse, and the decorating team works off of it.
“We put it on a truck and deliver it,” Scott Clack said. “We were going to do 12, but we’re already talking about doing three for December. As long as people keep donating the materials, we’re going to keep building them.”
The first playhouse went to Timothy McCannon of Greensboro, who is battling B-lymphoblastic lymphoma. Avery just had a liver transplant, and she is recovering well, her mother said.
Dr. David Sprayberry in Watkinsville is Avery’s pediatrician, and a few of his employees go to church at New Life. They have Avery’s name to the selection committee and nominated her for a playhouse.
The final step was for the volunteers to see just what Avery wanted.
She used almost every crayon in the box when she colored her playhouse picture. Out front, there was what looked like a pot of gold.
As it turned out, it was filled with giraffe feed.
“We’ve kept track of Avery and we’re praying for her,” said the Rev. Tim Hammond, the pastor at New Life. “She wanted a rainbow and a giraffe. We’re waiting for that giraffe.”
Avery didn’t have to wait for long. Her playhouse came with a pot of giraffe food and a wooden giraffe.
With a pink flower in her brown hair, she patted the giraffe and then looked up along the side of her new play home.
She pointed and read the letters that ran downward.
“A-V-E-R-Y!” she shouted, still smiling.
Everyone around her was smiling, too. The M.Y. Playhouse Project may continue for a long time.
“We all miss Madison terribly around here,” Hammond said. “This will keep Madison’s memory alive.”
To nominate a child for the project, call 706-769-6824 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            706-769-6824      end_of_the_skype_highlighting.