In the arms of his father, Baxley Hoover was introduced to his backyard’s new addition.
The 4-year-old was gifted a new playset built Friday outside his family’s home on Saddlewood Drive in Carolina Forest, the result of a partnership between the Roc Solid Foundation and Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group. Volunteers gathered there for the construction and a celebration after Baxley was surprised with the playset.
“It’s overwhelming,” the child’s mother Suzanne Hoover said. “So many people came together for us and we didn’t even expect a response like this.”
In March, Baxley was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare kind of soft tissue cancer.
Life quickly changed. The family travels to Medical University of South Carolina weekly, and Baxley has undergone chemotherapy treatments, which can affect his energy.
“It’s completely different,” said the boy’s father Kevin Hoover. “From the time we wake up to the time we go to sleep, it’s a different set of concerns and thoughts.”
But, the Hoovers said, the family is grateful.
They’ve met several other families, including many who aren’t as fortunate, and there’s been an outpouring of support from community members.
“Not a lot of people get that support,” Suzanne Hoover said. “We’re very thankful and blessed.”
Luckily, she added, her son’s tumor is shrinking.
Her husband sported a cap reading “Hug your people,” a phrase inspired by Baxley’s own saying, that has turned into a rallying cry. The family has shipped hats to locations all over the country as well as donated wagons to families; Baxley himself preferred a collapsable one to riding in a wheelchair or stretcher.
“[This] really has refocused us on how can we not only beat cancer for our son, but help other families and other kids,” Kevin Hoover said.
Friday’s events began with a limousine ride taking the family to breakfast and Windmill Playhouse.
“I haven’t seen him running around and playing and so happy since before he got diagnosed,” Suzanne Hoover said of her son.
Community members pitched in for the playset construction, including personnel with the Horry County Sheriff’s Office and Beverly Homes.
The Roc Solid Foundation’s founder Eric Newman is a survivor himself, now in remission after being diagnosed with liver cancer at age three. To date, the foundation has helped build 600 playsets for families, the one assembled Friday the first constructed in the Myrtle Beach area.
“The reason we built him a playset is because the one thing you never have to teach a child to do is to play,” he said, “and the first thing that’s taken from a child with pediatric cancer is the act of play.”
The organization also provides ready bags with items such as toiletries, a tablet and a blanket for children diagnosed with cancer, distributing them through parter children’s hospitals in multiple states in the Southeast.
Barbara Carroll, a transaction coordinator at Atlantic Mortgage Group and a longtime friend of the Hoovers, said the idea for building the playset emerged after she asked a co-worker Nicole Bevil what they could do for the family.
The marketing director sent out some emails, and eventually the company’s corporate headquarters linked them with Newman.
“It’s awesome,” Carroll said. “I’m so glad and honored we could do this for them.”
In just a few hours Friday morning, volunteers built the entire playset — complete with a slide, climbing wall and swings — much to the enjoyment of some of Baxley’s cousins and friends.
Mentioning her son’s neuropathy, Suzanne Hoover said, “I think just having a playset in the backyard where he can just go and play for a little bit is going to be huge for him. He’ll be able to get his own physical therapy every single day.”
The parents shed a few tears Friday as Baxley was presented his playset.
“I think you like to think people care about you and then something like this happens and perfect strangers show up to really change your little boy’s life,” Kevin Hoover said. “It puts some restored faith in the world.”