When 9-year-old Ryan Block first saw his newly renovated bedroom, equipped with a high-powered computer, pulsing LED lights, and video-game-themed decorations, he was all smiles but speechless. It was a far cry from his intense battle with Burkitt’s leukemia, which put him through months of chemotherapy treatment in 2022.
“My cheeks hurt from smiling; I just can’t believe it,” expressed his mother Christina Block. “I mean this is the coolest thing ever.”
Block as well as his two sisters received bedroom makeovers thanks to Specials Spaces Illinois, the largest chapter of the nonprofit organization, Specials Spaces. Special Spaces is a not-for-profit 501(C)(3) organization that started creating dream bedrooms for children with cancer in 2004.
“Our mission statement is “creating dream bedrooms for kids with cancer,” said Kelly Knox, the director of Special Spaces Illinois. “Our tagline is “changing children’s lives one bedroom at a time.”
Dream Bedroom Coordinator Christy Gallagher directed a team of carpenters, painters, and furniture builders to transform 3 bedrooms at the Block home into exactly what the kids had in mind when they met with a Special Spaces designer. Along with Ryan’s gaming-themed room, 7 year-old Tegan and 19 year-old Taylor received refreshed bedrooms with new furniture and fresh coats of colorful paint.
“We take that child through the journey of a dream bedroom makeover,” said Knox. “They meet with a designer; they have control over that room.”
Every Special Spaces Illinois makeover is accomplished in one day with the help of a sponsor. Home Depot Manager Patrick Kotus, who also serves on the Special Spaces Illinois board, brought a team of volunteers from the Bartlett, IL and Carol Stream, IL stores to help renovate the bedrooms with materials they donated.”
“Those sponsors not only give the money; this is a day of teambuilding and bonding,” said Knox, “A sponsor kind of ‘adopts’ that child.”
The Block’s bedroom renovations are just 3 of more than 300 makeovers Specials Spaces Illinois has done since the chapter’s founding 10 years ago. Knox said every reimagined room is a haven for kids and their siblings who experience so much pain and loss of time in treatment.
“After experiencing 300 of these you would think it gets old but it doesn’t,” said Knox. “We’re helping families and helping kiddos who really need something.”
After seeing her room, Taylor Block joked to her mother that now she was “never leaving her room,” a statement which Knox said she had heard before.
“We did a room makeover this past year and the child said to dad, “Dad can you ground me so I never have to leave my room?,” said Knox. “That encapsulates what we want the child to feel.”
For more information on Special Spaces Illinois, visit https://specialspaces.org/our-chapters/illinois
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