‘Play It Forward’

Published 4:47 pm Sunday, October 6, 2013

By Caroline Stephenson


MURFREESBORO – September 14 was a busy day in HertfordCounty.

Heritage Day was in full swing in Ahoskie – the parade, the food, the music, and the fun. That same morning, 3-year-old Henry Hodges of Murfreesboro was on the go with his family.

After enjoying a buffet breakfast at Whitley’s Barbecue, the Hodges family headed over to Heritage Day to catch the parade and the festivities.  By mid-day, it was time to return home for a rest….. and the rest is history.

Waiting for little Henry when he arrived home was a brand-new, three-story play structure in his backyard surrounded by nearly 75 friends, family, neighbors, volunteers and representatives of the Roc Solid Foundation.

After all Henry has been through, his mother, Melissa Parker, is always glad to see a smile on her son’s tiny face.

“When Henry saw the play set he said ‘look at my playground, c’mon let’s go slide’ and he ran over to it,” she recalled of that special day. “Henry has played on it every single day since he got it. It is wonderful to have something so awesome for him and Daniel to enjoy right out our back door.”

The Roc Solid Foundation, founded in 2009 and based in Chesapeake, VA, was created to provide physical and emotional support for children and their families as they deal with the reality of pediatric cancer. The Foundation’s “Play It Forward” program constructs custom playgrounds for children in treatment or recovery. To date, Play It Forward has constructed more than 50 play sets for children throughout the southeastern United States.

Henry was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor in June of 2012.

“Often times, making it out to the local park requires a monumental effort for these children. Additionally, the combination of a weakened immune system and the environment of a public playground can sometimes outweigh the positive effects of exercise and play. The volunteers of the Play It Forward program provide these children the ability enjoy the therapeutic benefits of playing at the park mere steps from their homes,” states the Roc Solid Foundation website.

Roc Solid orchestrated Henry’s morning out, so that dozens of volunteers would have time to build his play structure and have it ready for his big surprise.

Another North Carolina family whose daughter was celebrating the end of her cancer treatment sponsored the play structure for Henry. They were in attendance when Henry’s new gift was revealed.

In March this year, Henry finished his own treatment and is doing well.  He is currently receiving physical and occupational therapy to help him stay on track with other children his age.

Go for the gold!  Every September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness month.  A gold ribbon is the symbol representing childhood cancer and the brave fight that young people wage during treatment and recovery.

According to the American Cancer Society, cancer is the leading cause of death in children under the age of 15 after accidents. Although survival rates in children have improved over the years, the cancer rate in children is on the increase.  Funds for research on childhood cancer prevention and treatment are very low compared to other types of cancer.  All types of childhood cancer combined only receive 3.8 percent of U. S. federal funding for research, according to the Pediatric Cancer Foundation.

Henry’s mother and aunt, Catherine Parker, created the group Henry and Daniel’s Holiday Helpers to bring joy to children with cancer who spend holidays and other important days in the hospital undergoing treatment.  This comes from Henry’s own experience.

“He spent many holidays in the hospital – fourth of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas,” said Catherine Parker.

Henry and Daniel’s Holiday Helpers provides holiday themed gift bags to inpatient children in the Hematology and Oncology department at the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk, VA.  The sale of gold wreathes and donations from individuals and local businesses help to fund this effort.

More information on the Roc Solid Foundation can be found at their website, www.rocsolidfoundation.org.  For more information about Henry and Daniel’s Holiday Helpers, contact Catherine Parker at 252-396-3535.