Editor’s note: On Thursday, the homes association board agreed to let Ella have her playhouse.
Fighting over a backyard playhouse isn’t at the top of the to-do list for parents of a little girl with leukemia.
But Wednesday, for Pete Schultz of Raymore, it seemed like the thing to do.
“I don’t get it,” Schultz said of his homeowners association board denying permission — at least initially — for a playhouse for his 6-year-old daughter, Ella Joe.
“She’s earned this — she deserves it. She can’t get out and play with other kids. This playhouse is what she would have. Is it really going to hurt someone?”
Ella has acute lymphoblastic leukemia and other ailments. She’s had multiple surgeries and gets five to seven IV treatments a day. She’s had to delay kindergarten.
Twice, the family has contacted hospice. At one point, according to her mother, Ella’s survival chance dropped below 5 percent.
On Wednesday, she was in the University of Kansas Hospital with infection and high fever.
The last thing her parents wanted or needed right now was another fight.
Late Wednesday, the board released a statement saying the initial “barn-style” proposal did not include enough information to grant an exception.
“Our hearts are with Ella Schultz and her family as they battle this terrible illness,” the statement said. “Our homeowners association board is committed to working with Make-A-Wish Foundation ... to see if we can figure out a way to make Ella’s wish come true.
“At this time there are no further comments until we can have this meeting.”
Ella’s parents heap praise on their subdivision and neighbors for supporting Ella in her battle to live. Last fall, after 112 days in the hospital, Ella came home to a neighborhood parade complete with a firetruck and a dance team from Raymore-Peculiar High School.
Police officers and firefighters shaved their heads when chemotherapy took Ella’s hair. Ella’s Facebook page has over 3,000 friends.
“These people have been so good to us,” said her mother, Jennifer Schultz. “I want them to know how much we appreciate all they’ve done.”
The flap started when Ella’s aunt nominated her to Make-A-Wish Missouri.
Ella wanted a house. Nothing fancy, mind you, a simple three-bedroom with an upstairs, dishwasher and a land line.
“That’s what she talks on in the hospital,” explained her mother.
Make-A-Wish granted the request, with some tweaks, and the J.E. Dunn construction company agreed to pay for labor and materials. Workers soon showed up at the Schultz home in the Stonegate subdivision to survey the site between a swingset and tree in the backyard.
But then word Monday from the Stonegate Homeowners Association that the playhouse would violate rules against outside structures and sheds.
After that initial denial, Pete Schultz said, he talked Tuesday with the board president, who told him a second meeting was planned.
Schultz said he understands the association’s concern and didn’t want the situation to be portrayed as ugly.
“But why,” he asked, “do you buy a house anyway — if not to raise a family?”
A neighbor, who asked that his name not be used for this story, shook his head at the situation.
“They won’t let you build you anything in here,” the man said. “But here’s the thing: We all knew the rules when we moved in here.
“That said, that little girl should get her house.”
Dunn spokeswoman Emily Fors said she thinks the situation can still be resolved: “We want this to work. We want to grant this wish.”
As the story of Ella’s playhouse went viral on social media Wednesday, comments came from all over the country. Reading the more spirited ones made Stacy Kudron, a great-aunt of Ella, shake her head.
“You deny a sick 6-year-old little girl a wish — that’s going to upset people.”