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CNN Today

Florida Family Fights to Keep Treehouse Refuge for Six-Year-Old Boy Sick With Leukemia

Aired January 11, 2000 - 1:35 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: The family of a six-year-old Florida boy who's battling leukemia is fighting another battle. They're trying to save the one thing they say helps the boy forget he's sick: his tree house.

More from reporter Jan Thorn with our affiliate WTVT in Tampa, Florida.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAN THORN, WTVT REPORTER (voice-over): When Brage Sassin isn't in the hospital, usually you can find him here: up in his tree house. It has a trap door, windows and a makeshift dumbwaiter.

BRAGE SASSIN, LEUKEMIA SURVIVOR: And I play games. And here I play games, I, like, play hot potato: If it goes out the window then you lose.

THORN: What this six-year-old has a tough time verbalizing is what this treehouse means to him. Since the age of two, Brage has been in and out of hospitals battling leukemia. Last spring, it was thought he had conquered it. He even had all of his hair back. As a big present, Brage and his dad built the treehouse together. But then the cancer returned and the treehouse became more than just wood, it became a safe haven.

TAMMY SASSIN, BRAGE'S MOTHER: For him being up there it reminds him that he is just a kid like everyone else. You know, for the short time that he was well he played up there with his friends, and he goes up there, he feels safe. It's his special place where he doesn't get poked, and -- it's his world.

THORN: But his world, his treehouse is too tall according to the Tampa Palms Owners Association. It's the same group which regulates the colors of houses and shrubbery, amongst other things. The treehouse is too tall by six feet. The Sassins have been asked since last spring to remove it or make it comply with deed restrictions.

B.J. MAGOL, NEIGHBOR: I think that's kind of harsh to do that. I mean, he's been through a lot right now, their family's been through a lot. It's really not -- to me, personally, it doesn't bother us.

THORN: And as this controversy continues, Brage is due back in the hospital.

T. SASSIN: We don't want to cause any harm; we just want some compassion.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATERS: The association's manager says it has considered the extenuating circumstances but that neighbors are complaining the tree house is hurting their property values. The neighbors say that's not true.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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