Emmet's Playground to honor 10-year-old Connecticut boy who died of rare illness

STAMFORD, Connecticut (WABC) -- Ten-year-old Emmet Manheim loved playgrounds and hoped to one day design roller coasters. But the Stamford, Connecticut, boy had a rare blood disorder and passed away just a year and a half after his diagnosis.

Now, his family and friends are picking up where Emmet left off and designing a playground for the boy who inspired so many.

Kids from Temple Beth El are hard at work making plans for the new playground to be located next to the synagogue, but this one has special meaning.

"This is a chance for children and Emmet's friends to remember him and not remember the sick Emmet," dad Jeff Manheim said. "To remember the joyful Emmet, the playful Emmet."

The project is called Emmet's Playground and is in honor of the boy who was diagnosed with aplastic anemia in May of 2018.

"Aplastic anemia is a blood disorder where your bone marrow stops functioning, basically," mom Lisa Manheim said. "I noticed that he was bruised, his feet hurt, he had headaches, and he had little red dots all over his body."

Emmet took weekly trips to the hospital and underwent three bone marrow transplants, and in the process, he made many new friends at the hospital.

"He was amazing," Lisa Manheim said. "He didn't miss a beat. He didn't ever complain. He never said, 'Why me?' He never said, 'This isn't fair.' He just went with it, and he believed and we believed that he would get better."

He fought hard, and his battle was an inspiration to many.

"He wrote a quote when he was in the hospital that we have framed in our house now," Lisa Manheim said. "You only have one life to live, so take risks."

And just when it looked like his last treatment was starting to work, Emmet's fight ended last September.

"We were like best friends," cousin Oliver Staub said. "We played everything together, and I really miss him."

Emmet had a love for playgrounds, mastering swinging on the monkey bars by the age of 4. He developed a passion for roller coasters and wanted to design them someday.

"I think this project is something that Emmet would love," cousin Charlie Staub said.

Now, his friends and family are carrying on those plans and that legacy, designing Emmet's Playground with more than $200,000 in donations.

"He loved life," Lisa Manheim said. "He loved his friends and his family, and he had big plans for himself."

They will break ground by spring, and the playground will stand as a lasting memorial to a little boy who was larger than life.

"I think he would think it was really awesome," Lisa Manheim said.

For more information and to donate to Emmet's Playground, visit EmmetsPlayground.com.

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