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Volunteers come together to build playset for young girl with leukemia

By Dwight Sparks
The Clemmons Courier

While she celebrated her birthday at Chick-fil-A and Build-A-Bear, workers invaded little Abby Keatings’ back yard in Clemmons West and erected a huge playset for her third birthday last week.

The unveiling that afternoon included a happy birthday serenade by 50 or more volunteers from Roc Solid Foundation and Richard Childress Racing.

Abby has been fighting acute myeloid leukemia at Brenner Children’s Hospital since last fall.

“We didn’t cure cancer, but we beat it back for the day,” said Richard Childress as Abby and her neighborhood friends swarmed over the playset.

The volunteers built the playset while Abby and her family, with parents Michelle and Ty, were taken by limo to breakfast and fun. Forsyth deputy Sgt. G.R. Goodrich escorted them home. The volunteers signed the playset with birthday wishes for Abby.

A backyard picnic of pizza with the family and volunteers followed the unveiling.

“When the opportunity was presented to RCR to be a part of building a brand new playset for Abby, we humbly accepted the project,” said Childress, chairman and CEO of Richard Childress Racing. “Community outreach and giving back is a very important part of the RCR core values, and to provide a little bit of hope to a 3-year-old that lives just down the street from our race shop is a project we’re honored to be involved in.”

Childress also brought much of his racing crew including two of his NASCAR race car drivers, grandson Austin Dillon and Ryan Newman.

Founded in 2009 by pediatric cancer survivor, Eric Newman, Roc Solid Foundation has become known for its efforts to support children and families facing pediatric cancer. Their flagship program, Play It Forward, constructs playsets for children fighting cancer between the ages of 1-8 and completes top-to-bottom room makeovers for children. Roc Solid has completed nearly 400 projects throughout the country, and this is their first project in this area.

“The treatments these kids undergo are intense, leaving them with little time and energy to enjoy playing like most kids do on a daily basis,” says Newman. “It’s our goal to give hope to these children by allowing them to be carefree for the day – to not think about cancer for a day – and the smiles we see make it all worthwhile.”

Neighbor Mike Rogers has championed Abby’s struggle with several special events. He was on hand for the back yard construction too. “Today was an extraordinary day celebrating some very extraordinary people’s journey,” he said. “Folks from all walks of life, a NASCAR owner, a 1st year resident at WFBH, a small brewery worker from Virginia, a housewife and mother, a couple race car drivers, a neighbor, family and friends, and all those who have great big hearts that see a need and fulfill that need. The goodness of mankind was put on display today. What a wonderful community we have that embraces us in our darkest days and celebrates in our victories.”