Neighbors’ Amazing Backyard Transformation for 7-Year-Old Boy With Cancer Who Can Rarely Leave Home

Jennifer O'Neill

More than 50 volunteers rallied on Wednesday to overhaul 7-year-old Bryan Carroll’s backyard, which is the extent of his outside world as he battles leukemia. It’s a gesture that dad Sean calls “amazing.” (Photo: Global News) 

In sickness and in health, Bryan Carroll’s Canada community is there for him. And those neighbors and friends proved it on Wednesday, pulling off a stunning surprise for the 7-year-old and his family by completely transforming his Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, backyard in just five hours so he’s able to play in it with his family. The yard has been particularly important to Bryan since he was diagnosed with leukemia last year because he hasn’t been able to go out much or be in contact with crowds. 


Photo: Global News 

“We knew something was in the works but not to the magnitude of what they did,” Bryan’s father, Sean, tells Yahoo Parenting. “I was shocked. It’s amazing to see it and to feel this support from the community. Just amazing.” 

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Bryan, along with his father, his 10-year-old sister, and his mom, Marsha, had gone on a private scenic train ride for the day, when a group of more than 50 people came over with truckloads of dirt, sod, mulch, gravel, a swing set, a patio set, and “everything to do a completely beautiful backyard so that they can spend their time outdoors as a family,” volunteer Melissa Ruginski told CTV Atlantic. Ruginski was joined by helpers including many of Bryan’s teachers, classmates, and friends. 

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Photo: Global News 

Rallied by family friend Leanne Christie, the group planned the yard makeover in just four days, with 79 people contributing more than $3,700, as well as time and supplies, through a GoFundMe page that she set up for the project. 

“It is summer, and everyone likes to spend time out of doors,” Christie wrote on the page on Saturday. “Bryan needs to avoid crowds and can’t swim due to health, so his choices are limited at times to their home.” Detailing how the family needed a “revamp of their damp backyard,” as the uneven terrain made it hazardous for Bryan to play on, she noted that Sean shared a couple of ideas about what he wanted to do to fix the area — except that yard work just isn’t his priority these days. “That’s where this idea was born,” she wrote. “We want to do this for them.” And did they ever. 

Volunteers laid new sod, installed a swing set, and put in furniture, toys, and a fire pit for the family to gather around together in the evenings. 

“He loves it,” Sean tells Yahoo Parenting about Bryan, who was in the hospital Thursday as part of his ongoing care. Still, just that morning he “ran out and started swinging on one of the hammocks,” Sean reports. “It was the first time he’s ever run outside like that, and it was great to see.” 

The surprise, though, is that the revamp has turned out to be a gift for the whole family. “It’s made the yard a really enjoyable space, and we don’t have to worry about Bryan falling or something,” Sean says. “Now it’s just nice to have friends over and have a place that he can play in and enjoy and [in which] we know that he’s safe.” 


Photo: Sean Carroll

Bryan’s favorite part, of course, has nothing to do with safety. “He loves the two kid seats, [the] Adirondack-style chairs that they put in the woods,” Sean notes. “He and his sister sit together on them. They just like to be off alone, brother and sister by themselves together, and not in a hospital.” 

As Sean told Global News, “That’s what’s most important … enjoying the time we have left with him.” 

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