Special Spaces creates fairy tale-themed bedroom for 3-year-old
By Jane Donahue For The Beacon-News February 21, 2013 5:12PM
Evie Brown, 3, and her mom, Kristin, enjoy her new fairytale-themed room in their Aurora home. Before Special Spaces did the room makeover, they met with Evie to learn what her interests were and the design followed. Jane Donahue/For Sun-Times Media/Naperville Sun 20130220 Wednesday, Aurora
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To learn more about Special Spaces and its mission, visit www.specialspaces.org
Updated: March 25, 2013 6:27AM
Most kids aren’t happy about being sent to their room, but that’s not the case for Evie Brown. In fact, it’s exactly where the 3-year-old wants to be.
That’s because on Feb. 16 she came home to a fairy tale-themed bedroom, designed especially for the Aurora princess. The room makeover was made possible by Special Spaces, a nonprofit organization that decorates dream bedrooms for children with a life-threatening illness.
“We were so surprised,“ said her mom, Kristin, a teacher at Longwood Elementary School in Naperville. “We had high expectations, and it far exceeded them. It means so much to our family, and we are so appreciative how the whole community came together.”
Evie was diagnosed with high risk T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia in October 2010. After undergoing two and a half years of treatment, the bubbly preschooler is in remission, doing well, and is cancer free.
Founded in 2004 with headquarters in Tennessee, Special Spaces has branches in 19 states.
The Chicagoland chapter — the first and only in Illinois — recently was launched by Kelly Knox of Naperville.
Evie’s room was her inaugural makeover.
“When they asked me if I wanted to start a chapter here in Illinois, I realized it was my passion and purpose all rolled into one,” said Knox, 42, who closed her drapery business to be the Special Spaces director. “So many people have been willing to help and have worked so hard. It’s been amazing.”
For a project to occur, Knox has to secure a “sponsor” for the room, which means about a $3,000 commitment and volunteers to support it. And while it may have been Knox’s first Special Spaces project, she seemed like a seasoned pro.
Part designer, part fundraiser, she reached out to several local high schools to see if they would take on the project. Waubonsie Valley’s family and consumer science department responded with a resounding “yes.”
“I was very excited about the prospect of allowing our students to gain some relevant experience in construction, design and textiles, while helping a child and family in need of some tender loving care,” said Andrea Hendrickson, the department chairperson. “I met with (teachers) Gayle Thanepohn and Matt Ristow (who) shared my excitement and were eager to allow their students to participate.”
More than a dozen students volunteered, raising funds, painting furniture and sewing curtains, bedding and pillows. Leading up to the makeover, they worked after school and outside of regular class periods to make Evie’s dream room a reality.
Freshman Francisca Caviedes said it was definitely worth the effort.
“The whole time I was thinking about how she will have this room every day,” said Caviedes, 14. “It was so great to be able to make a difference and help out with my school. I am looking forward to the next project we can do, because I will definitely be helping out with that project, too.”
For Knox, Evie’s smile said it all. “This was the greatest day from start to finish,” Knox said. “Everyone has worked very hard to make her room beautiful; the dedication to this project has been amazing. This family could not deserve our hard work more than they do.”
And while Knox took a moment to celebrate, she is already working to make a special space for another child. Her next project is in the works, but she is always looking for people to share their “time, talents and treasure.”