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Construction worker plays live 'Where's Waldo' with kids in hospital across the street

Using a giant cutout of Waldo, construction worker Jason Haney has been playing a live version of "Where's Waldo" with patients at a children's hospital in Indiana.
/ Source: TODAY

For the kids at one Indiana children’s hospital, Jason Haney might be the coolest construction worker ever.

That’s because he knows the answer to one very important question: Where’s Waldo?

While working on a new wing of Memorial Children's Hospital of South Bend, Haney, 41, decided to enlist the famously elusive character to have some fun with the young patients.

Every few days, Haney hides an 8-foot cutout of Waldo in different parts of the unfinished building, challenging the kids to spot Waldo from their hospital windows next door.

"I can't believe a simple piece of wood can bring so much happiness,'' Haney told TODAY.

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Heidi Prescott, a hospital spokeswoman, told TODAY that updates on Waldo's movements can send kids scrambling to spot him first.

"You walk into the pediatrics unit and you ask the kids, 'Where's Waldo?', and we have seen children in the play area or their rooms run up to the window and look out,'' Prescott said.

Where's Waldo cutout
Haney hides Waldo in different parts of the new wing of the hospital. The young patients can see the construction site from their windows.Heidi Prescott / Beacon Health System

"It really helps take their mind off what they're going through for a couple minutes, and it's been very heartwarming."

Haney started the project in the winter by building a snowman and putting a hardhat and vest on him, which was a big hit with the children.

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Later, he put up an inflatable snowman and a SpongeBob SquarePants figure.

When he got the idea for Waldo, he took an 8 x 4 sheet of plywood and cut it into the shape of the bespectacled character with the help of his daughter.

Jafet Acevedo-Oliveras, 7, of South Bend, Ind.
Haney has also created a Facebook page where children from the hospital can show how they spotted Waldo.Heidi Prescott / Beacon Health System

He also created a Facebook page where kids and their parents can post photos of Waldo after they spot him.

Haney and his wife, Heather, have empathy for the children in the hospital and their parents. They've been through a similar struggle themselves.

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Haney's daughter, Taylor, suffered a stroke while in utero.

When Taylor was 3, doctors told them damage on the left side of her brain would prevent her from learning past a third-grade level.

Where's Waldo cutout
Haney built the Waldo cutout with his daughter, Taylor.Heidi Prescott / Beacon Health System

"It was the worst news possible,'' Haney said. "We were shocked, but the brain is amazing, and it righted itself."

This past spring, Taylor, now 18, graduated high school with honors and will be a freshman at Ball State University in the fall.

As for Waldo, the construction on the new wing is projected to be finished in March of 2017.

And as more of the building becomes bricked off, Haney is running out of spots to hide him.

Where's Waldo cutout
Haney, with Waldo and a Memorial Children's Hospital ambulance, said he's making some Minions (from the "Despicable Me" franchise) to hide next.Dawn McCaskill / Beacon Health System

But the game will go on.

"We're doing Minions next because they're smaller,'' Haney said.

Meanwhile, the big-hearted construction worker has become a celebrity in the halls of Memorial Children's Hospital.

"The other day a girl who is about 10 years old was getting chemo, and you could just see her eyes light up when she met Jason,'' Prescott said.

"You would've thought he was the biggest rock star. What Jason is doing is far and above what any construction worker would normally do."

Follow writer Scott Stump on Twitter.