Eight-year-old Hyrum Howes didn’t sleep a wink one night last week, but, had he been, he likely would have been dreaming of sailing aboard a three-masted galleon as a boy buccaneer in search of pieces of eight and gold doubloons. 

Hyrum and his family were stunned a week ago to discover a big, wooden pirate play ship going up in their Lebanon backyard. 

Pulling into their driveway that afternoon they spied carpenter Derek Hinckley and his crew (his son, Dawson, 15, a Mt. Juliet High freshman) unloading timber.

Rosalie Howes, Hyrum’s mom, explained, “We had just come home from a long day of appointments at Vanderbilt Hospital, and my first thought was, ‘Oh, no. I’ve pulled into the wrong driveway.’ I put the car in reverse and then thought, ‘Wait, this is my driveway. Somebody’s got the wrong house and is doing construction.’ 

“I was really confused, and then I saw the big Pirate Play Ship banner and people with cameras, and they went, ‘Surprise!’, and Derek told me that Hyrum had been nominated for a Pirate Play Ships Give-Back. I was shocked and couldn’t believe it was happening. It was a really great way to end a long day of appointments. Hyrum has just been grinning the whole time. The first night he didn’t sleep a wink.”

Hinckley, based in Mt. Juliet, has built more than 150 pirate play ships across the U.S. over the past 11 years.  

“This was the first Pirate Give-Back done by my own company. I’ve done Make-a-Wish projects before,” said Hinckley, who has a place on his website for people to nominate families for the give-back. The Howes family was selected from about 30 nominated. 

Zoo Crew Pediatric Dentistry of Mt. Juliet-Hermitage, which will be opening a Lebanon office early next year, paid for the cost of materials for the ship, that includes a slide, gang plank, rock wall, pirate wheel and swing set. It took four days to build.  

The Howes held an open house-big reveal of the pirate play ship last Wednesday night with friends.

“It went great. We cut a ribbon, and Hyrum got to take the wheel and be captain of the ship and his friends played on it,” Rosalie said. “It was so great to see Hyrum playing alongside his little sister. That’s something as a mom I’ve always wanted to see — him getting to play with his little sister in their own backyard and now that’s possible.” 

About Hyrum’s health situation, his mother shared, “He suffered a stroke in utero, and they saw a brain bleed on ultrasound, which led him to being born with hydrocephalous. He had his first brain surgery at three months old to place a stent to drain fluid. He’s had 39 surgeries now in his life including several being brain surgeries.

“The big reveal was on the two-year anniversary of his last brain surgery, which had complications and he was on life support several days. Two years later this is just a miracle. They’re (the children) gonna get a lot of use out of it.”

While watching Hyrum and his sister on the play ship Hinckley said he definitely felt “joy.” 

“All the sweat, the splinters, the cuts and bruises: this makes it worth it. Pirate ships are ho-hum to us now, but to the family I build it for it’s the coolest, most amazing thing they’ve ever seen. I try to look at it from that perspective when I leave. That ship is changing their world,” said the jolly Pirate Play Ship commander.


The Pirate Give-Back

To make a donation or to nominate a family for Pirate Play Ships’ Pirate Give-Back, go online to: pirateplayships.com/give-back/.

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