Pewaukee girl gets wish granted for home gymnastics gym – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

VILLAGE OF PEWAUKEE – Everlie Schirpke, 6, hesitantly crept down the basement stairs. At the bottom awaited her parents, grandmother and a group of construction workers all eager to share the surprise.
Each step Everlie took revealed more and more until she saw the new addition: a gymnastics room. Once that was clear, a big smile came over her face, and she took off, starting with a jump into a foam pit. Next, a swing on the gymnastics bar and tumbling, climbing, flipping, spinning and jumping around the room in pure delight.
It took only minutes to hear a call from upstairs.
“Can we come down yet?” Everlie’s older sister yelled from upstairs.
Suddenly, three sisters joined the fray of spins and twirls all over the room.
The youngest declared, “This is the best day ever.”
Everlie’s dad, Josh, said  they had “four happy kids” and “if we don’t know where they are, we know they’re downstairs.”
It was a wish come true for the family brought by Make-a-Wish Wisconsin and Riley Construction. Most importantly, it will help Everlie, who has cystic fibrosis, live her healthiest life.
“Exercise is very important,” said Everlie’s mom, Becky Shirpke. “It really helps clear out her lungs. … Movement helps clear it out. All of the physical activity and the cardio she’ll get from running around will be beneficial for her overall health.”
Everlie’s diagnosis took time after she was born. Within 24 hours of her birth, she had a bowel obstruction and was unresponsive. Two surgeries later, the healing process and Everlie’s journey began. Tests were run over the next 15 months until doctors at Children’s Wisconsin came up with the answer.
“It wasn’t necessarily good news, but we could finally start getting her on a treatment plan and understanding her body correctly,” Josh said. “It was a journey for us to learn proper treatments and what she could and couldn’t eat. We had two daughters already, and this was again a new journey for us.”
Cystic fibrosis is a chronic, genetic disease that affects every cell in the body. For Everlie, it mostly affects her lungs and respiratory system and her digestive system. Her pancreas basically has no function.
This requires daily treatments and medications, including spending about an hour a day in a vest that helps shake out the mucus from her lungs and helps clear her muscles and also wearing a breathing mask. It requires more time when she is sick.
“Cystic fibrosis is progressive, so right now, Everlie is technically the healthiest she’ll ever be,” Becky said. “It’ll keep eating away at her body. Many people have lung transplants but that only lasts a few years before another is needed.”
A new medication is giving their family and others hope, Becky said. 
“Everlie is on a new medication can Trikafta, which is the first approved medication to treat cystic fibrosis and not the just symptoms. It’s changed life expectancy to the 40s, which is a really big deal.”
Despite challenges, Everlie is active, preferring to see the world as her playground. There are limitations — like not being able to go gym because she gets sick easily — but she makes her own happiness.
“Everlie is a hyperactive little girl,” Becky said. “She has a natural ability and amazing control of her body. She just started doing cartwheels, and we have a trampoline. She is self-motivated, self-taught.”
When the family connected with Make-a-Wish Wisconsin in 2021, Everlie was asked what she might want. Between trips and unlimited possibilities, she chose the gymnastics room, something she and her family could use for years to come.
“We’ll have some great family moments down there and some great family time,” Becky said. “We’re kind of an athletic family. We like to do stuff, so it’ll be a great family resource.”
Once the wish was decided, Becky and Josh sketched a rough design of what they thought Everlie would love. There was some input from the kids, but Everlie mostly wanted it to be a surprise.
From there, the family was put in touch with Riley Contruction of Waukesha in March. The company’s president, Ben Kossow, had heard through the Associated General Contractors of Wisconsinthat Make-a-Wish was looking for contractors to help with projects.
When one popped up in their own backyard, Kossow reached out to his team, who jumped at the chance to make a dream come true.
“We do big, industrial projects and build hospitals; we’ve never done anything like this,” Kossow said. “Our carpenters responded immediately and went to meet the family.”
Pandemic-related shipping delays pushed the project back a bit, but once all the materials were in, the team got to work. Over a two-week period, a group of four would come during and sometimes after work to put the project together. Jobs included painting the walls, building a fort and a foam pit and ensuring all equipment — like the rock wall and monkey bars — were safe and tested.
That’s right, the team said they had to test it out themselves ahead of time.
“One guy said he did the entire monkey bars all the way across,” Kossow said. “I told him to do it in front of the cameras. He still hasn’t done it yet.”
Once the materials arrived, the whole turnaround took about two weeks. The project was completed July 28. That’s when one of the toughest parts began: keeping the surprise.
“I was impressed because Everlie wanted it to be a surprise, and she had so much self-control,” Becky said. “She was really great at not going down there. Her sisters were a little tougher. They were more challenging to keep out of the basement, but in the end, it was a great surprise.”
Once the basement gymnastics gym was open, it didn’t take long to see its impact. Four girls, and even Dad, running around, jumping in the foam pit. Smiles were universal and the completed project appreciated.
“I don’t have daughters; I have four boys,” Kossow said. “To see the energy, and see the girls up here before. They were so shy, but I love the emotion we saw when they were on the monkey bars and jumping in the foam pit. It’s not the reason we do this, but it makes the experience so special, and with cystic fibrosis, to be able to get that energy out and do all of the things right in her house, it’s incredible.”
The girls had already determined they’d sleep down there that night and many nights to come. Everlie wants her next birthday party down there. It seemed like they never wanted to leave.
To have it right at home where every can be safe and healthy means the world, Josh said.
“In Wisconsin, it’s something we can use year-round,” he said. “That’s exciting we can use that space, and friends can use this space and will be like, ‘Oh, we get to go to their house and they have that gymnastics space.’ It might be the popular house on the block for a bit, and it’s exciting to have that for them.”
When asked about how her wish turned out, Everlie said she plans to be down there a lot. Her favorite part is the monkey bars, and she said she hopes she can be a gymnast one day.
Drew Dawson can be reached at or 262-289-1324.


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