Since April, pediatric patients at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Indiana, have been jumping out of bed each day, rushing to a window and staring deep into the construction site next door.
That’s because they know that somewhere in the construction site, Waldo (of Where’s Waldo?, the children’s series of picture books, fame) is hiding – and it’s their task to find him.
“Patients will run to the window and stare for a few minutes and then you’ll hear them exclaim, ‘I found him!’ ” Heidi Prescott of Beacon Health System tells PEOPLE. “It brightens their days and it brightens our days, too.”
The Waldo they’re searching for is an 8-foot-tall wooden cut-out that was created by Jason Haney, labor foreman of the hospital’s $50 million expansion.
When the children find the Waldo, Haney is notified and the figure is hidden in a new area of the site and the game begins again.
Haney came up with the idea to hide the Waldo in view of the hospital’s southern windows after a snowman workers built on the site this winter delighted the hospital’s patients and staff.
“One of the electricians said he thought it would be funny if there was a Waldo,” Haney told the South Bend Tribune.
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So, Haney cut the Waldo silhouette out of plywood and he and his daughter painted the Waldo together.
Haney and his daughter, Taylor, felt it was important to create something to give kids in the hospital and their families something to look forward to – because they’ve been in that position themselves.
Taylor suffered a stroke at just 3 years old. At first, Taylor had to be hospitalized every three months for treatment, and doctors predicted she wouldn’t be able to learn past the third-grade level.
Now 17, Taylor has graduated high school and plans to attend Ball State University to study biology and zoology.
For now, she’s working on helping her dad find new ways to bring smiles to the young patients’ faces. Recently, the pair created four minions that will be hidden around the site as well.
“Every once in a while we get a kid who doesn’t know who Waldo is,” says Prescott, “but everyone knows how to spot a minion.”
Prescott adds that she’s been very impressed with Haney’s dedication to bringing joy to the young patients and their families.
“He has touched so many lives with this game,” she says. “It’s just amazing to watch the kids’ faces light up and to see them look forward to looking out their windows every day.”