PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — It started out as a hobby for Matthew Perlman, turned into his way of making children smile and now serves a bigger purpose -- a thanks to God, he said, for granting him the gift of life.
"Once I was in the hospital and they told me I wasn't going to make it, I prayed to God one night and begged him to allow me to beat my cancer for the second time," said Matthew Perlman, founder of "Palm Brick Gardens." "And two days later, I started getting better, by everyone's surprise. My way of showing my appreciation to God is I decided to start my own nonprofit organization."
Perlman has been an adult lego enthusiast for as long as he can remember. After recently going through stage 4 lung cancer, his self-taught skills took on more meaning. He started by inviting the children of his Palm Beach Gardens neighborhood in to see the Lego city he built in the spare bedroom of his home. Their smiles and excitement motivated him to do even more.
"It was a huge hit and I was like, 'Wow, this is great. I'm going to keep going,'" said Perlman.
Perlman's Lego city, "Palm Brick Gardens", includes a replica of Palm Beach International Airport, complete with a control tower that has flashing lights and a working elevator. There's an amusement park with working rides, a two-story hospital and a downtown area.
The attention to detail is impressive and it's all made out of thousands of tiny Lego parts.
Perlman has even taken his creation on the road to the Palm Beach Children's Hospital.
"All these sick children came down and I gave them a happy day from their very rotten schedules of chemo and everything else that I understand, because I've been through it as well, and that really touched my heart to want to go bigger and better," said Perlman.
The Lego city Perlman currently stores within his own home is just a sample of the one he dreams of one day displaying.
"All I really need is for someone to either donate enough money or donate a space to me," said Perlman. "I need, like, 3 or 4,000 square feet to get started and I can bring my dreams true."
Perlman hopes some kind of sponsorship from a business or the community will give him the chance to locally open up an interactive place where children can come for free to play, learn and get inspired.
He has ideas of a wooden race track where children will have the chance to create their own Lego car, play with them and then take it home. He also hopes to have a "Star Wars" scene made out of 65 sets of "Star Wars" Legos that were donated to him.
"My biggest vision is to put a smile on every child's face in Florida," said Perlman.
Anyone interested in learning more or donating to Perlman's nonprofit organization can do so at PalmBrickGardens.org.
Perlman also just learned he was chosen as an exhibitor for the South Florida Fair, so from May 7-17, "Palm Brick Gardens" will be on display at the fairgrounds in West Palm Beach.