Hannah Mae Campbell tries on a pair of princess shoes given to her by Lake Stevens Girl Scout Troop 44017 in her family’s Everett home on Saturday. The troop raised over $900 which they used to buy Campbell a playhouse and other presents.

A house for Hannah: Girl with heart transplant gets a safe place to play

EVERETT — Three years ago, Hannah Mae Campbell’s birthday was marked by celebration.

It was because she was still alive.

Instead of presents, her parents held a “birthday bash-blood drive” at their church, to provide life-saving gifts to others.

Little Hannah had received just such a gift. She was born with a very rare and often fatal condition called diffuse rhabdomyomatosis, a benign tumor in the walls of her heart that caused the organ to grow at an accelerated rate.

She got a heart transplant at the age of four months.

Hannah turned 4 last week. She’s turned out to be quite a normal little girl, with deep blue eyes, an ear-to-ear grin and a bottomless font of energy.

But she doesn’t have a normal life. Most of her days are confined to her Everett home. The anti-rejection drugs she’ll have to take for the rest of her life compromise her immune system.

Play dates with other children are contingent on no one being sick. The modern playground at Hannabrook Park at the end of her street is off limits.

“She does pick up viruses very easily, so she’s kind of sheltered,” said her mother, Jennifer Campbell.

“Two weeks ago, she did her first trip to Trader Joe’s and pushed her first shopping cart,” she said. Afterward they washed her hands thoroughly, as they do after any public outing.

Enter Girl Scout Troop 44017 in Lake Stevens.

Ten girls, all fourth- and fifth-grade junior scouts, were looking for a community service project to earn their bronze award.

“They decided they wanted to build a playhouse for a little girl who wouldn’t be able to go to the park,” said Lisa Holland, one of the assistant scout leaders.

Hannah came to their attention, and the girls were moved by the fact that she couldn’t even go to the grocery store, much less a public playground.

The girls researched various options for a playhouse kit, and met with the family to get to know Hannah and scope out the Campbells’ back yard.

The troop then had to raise money for the project. They used some of their cookie sales money, but that wasn’t enough to cover the approximately $900 cost.

“They got their food handlers’ permits and had a bake sale,” said troop leader Amber Johnson.

Then they held a fundraiser to bring in the remaining money.

A few weeks ago, the kids (and their parents) gathered and built a platform for the house, with lumber donated by Wrecking Ball Demolition of Everett.

“They all got a chance to use a giant miter saw and a nail gun,” Johnson said.

Then on May 14, with a morning drizzle turning into a steady rain by afternoon, it was showtime.

“We’re just glad it’s not that hot. Last time is was super hot,” Audrey Davis, 10, said, recalling work on the platform in the recent spell of summery weather.

The kids took turns working the electric screwdriver and putting various pieces of the cedar house together, often crowding into the tiny structure with one of the dads.

As soon as the doorbell was attached and the battery installed, the kids start testing it out. Again and again.

Campbell joked that the bell may be turned off in the near future.

The day wasn’t all work. Hannah paraded around the yard wearing a chef’s costume and sparkly slippers decorated with a picture of Merida, the princess from Disney’s “Brave.”

The scouts brought over various other toys for the house, such as a tot-sized broom and dustpan.

“Now she can also help you sweep,” Nisa Ellis, 9, said to Jennifer Campbell.

At one point, cookies showed up and got passed around, providing a bit of a distraction for all the kids. Hannah and Nisa later tossed an inflatable ball back and forth inside the (adult) house. Hannah would burst into cackles every time she pegged Nisa with the ball.

The playhouse came together after several hours.

Campbell said Hannah has fallen in love with the house.

“I think she’s wanted to camp in there almost every night, rain or shine,” she said.

All four of her kids have been enjoying the new house this week, including 2-year-old Cora and sons Cavan, 12, and Bryce, 10.

“Even her older brothers are ordering food from the window,” Campbell said.

“It’s been a wonderful gift.”

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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