Dream treehouse for Bridgewater girl gets off the ground

BRIDGEWATER — Gianna Balletta’s nine years of life have been an adventure so when it came time to get a wish from the Kids Wish Network, she wanted a treehouse complete with a zip line.

On Wednesday Tree Top Builders, Home Depot and Somerville Lumber partnered to give her just that.

When she asked for a treehouse, Gianna, who will be a fourth-grader at Crim School this fall, said she wanted something basic — a slab up in the tree at her home in the Martinsville section.

When the more than 20 volunteers started building the platform for a six-sided treehouse, Gianna could only describe it as “awesome.”

“In her short nine years of life she has been through more than most people do in a lifetime,” her mother Lisa Balletta said. “She has been so brave.”

Even with a life-threatening heart condition, Gianna is a thrill seeker, Balletta said.

“Nothing stops Gianna, nothing at all.”

Moments after Gianna was born, she turned blue. Doctors discovered she had a congenital heart defect known as Transposition of the Great Arteries, which happens when the flow of blood to her heart goes backwards.

Within hours, Gianna was in surgery with surgeons trying to swap her arteries which were no thicker than a strand of hair. She had another surgery when she was six months old.

“It was touch-and-go there for a while,” Balletta said.

In both surgeries, her chance of survival was slim. Gianna had a third open-heart surgery when she was four years old.

Gianna had done well until summer 2009 when she started to cough up blood. She spent two weeks at the hospital and doctors were not able to figure out how blood was getting in her lungs. Now, every three months, Gianna must endure a battery of tests.

“I don’t know what her prognosis is,” Balletta said.

For now, her mom said, they are just focusing on living life.

The treehouse will be something Gianna’s whole family can enjoy. Gianna’s siblings, Alyssa, 11, Kierra, 7, and Zachary, 13, are also looking forward to the treehouse.

“We’ll all be up there,” Balletta said.

Dan Wright of Tree Top Builders designed the six-sided treehouse eight feet off the ground. The zip line stretches the length of the yard.

The Kids Wish Network asked Home Depot in Bridgewater for supplies. Jennifer Hoffmann, who manages the Route 202 store, enlisted a crew of 21 Team Depot volunteers from her store and the one in the Bridgewater Promenade. Team Depot came over with flower pots. Employee Linda Light painted a birdhouse for the treehouse. Another employee Jodie Sawyer wood-burned a plaque that said “Gianna’s Treehouse.”

Somerville Lumber also donated supplies and a bag of stuffed animals because employees heard Gianna likes them.

Wright also installed a tree swing. Gianna helped launch a slingshot to get the rope over the branch, which was about two-stories high.

“I got it on the first try,” she said.

Courier News
Martinsville, New Jersey
Published: 08/18/10


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Kids Wish Network is a charitable organization dedicated to infusing hope, creating happy memories, and improving the quality of life for children having experienced life-altering situations. Kids Wish Network assists children and their families through several key programs.