Where does a child go to find peace and comfort when battling a serious illness?
Like most of us, young children who are ill probably find more solace in their own homes surrounded by the people and things they love than in hospitals or clinics.
If that’s true, then a child’s home should be as close to perfect as it can possibly be.
That’s the philosophy and mission of an organization known as Special Spaces, founded in 2004.
“We create dream bedrooms for children with life-threatening medical illnesses,” said Director of Special Spaces St. Louis Lacy Gamble. “This is a place only the child can dream about or imagine and it also addresses their medical needs.”
Special Spaces operates on the belief that children battling life-threatening illnesses need their own special spaces, places of hope and inspiration where they can find peace and comfort.
Currently, Special Spaces has over 30 affiliate chapters across the country and they’ve created hundreds of bedrooms for children during the course of the last decade.
“It’s the vision of our organization to have a Special Spaces Director everywhere there’s a child in need,” said Gamble.
The organization serves children from birth to 21 years of age and primarily relies on local children’s hospitals to identify those who are in need and make referrals.
“If a family comes to us directly we send them to the child life specialist at their hospital who then makes the referral,” said Gamble.
The organization holds a variety of fundraisers throughout the year in the Lincoln, St. Charles and St. Louis County areas and they apply for corporate grants to assist with room makeovers.
“We also have companies, individuals and families who will sponsor a child’s room,” said Gamble.
One such family has agreed to sponsor a new bedroom for Madison Olson, better known to Elsberry residents as “Maddie O”.
Maddie is a 12-year-old Elsberry child who has been battling a form of cancer known as Medulloblastoma since July.
“We were very shocked and surprised to be contacted,” said Maddie’s mother Jessica Jameson. “Maddie is very excited to have a new room being built downstairs.”
Gamble said in Maddie’s case a local Troy family chose to sponsor her room in lieu of exchanging gifts among the adult members of their own family.
“I had been watching Maddie’s journey on Facebook and wanted to put her on our waiting list,” said Gamble. “A local family contacted me about sponsoring a room and said they preferred to complete the room locally. I sent the family information about Maddie and asked if they were willing to complete her room in Elsberry. They joyfully agreed and were excited to join us.”
The family has asked to remain anonymous at this time, but they will be present on January 4 when Maddie’s room is completed and revealed.
Maddie is aware of her new room, but she won’t go downstairs to see it until it’s unveiled in January,” said Gamble. “Every child knows that we’re completing their room makeover because we interview them when we’re preparing our designs for the room.”
During Maddie’s interview, Gamble discovered that she loves the color blue and is very interested in wolves and bald eagles.
Maddie’s room is being designed with those things in mind, but the actual layout and appearance of the room are a closely guarded secret.
“We can’t reveal the details of her room just yet but we are creating some very special touches,” said Gamble.
Gamble added that Maddie’s room is a bit unique and the organization won’t do similar things in the future because it’s outside of their typical scope.
“We were able to build a room for her in the family’s basement with the help of local Elsberry residents and family friends,” said Gamble. “However, we don’t generally build walls or add doors and ceilings.”
During the month of December Maddie’s room has been framed and wired and drywall has been put up.
Volunteers working with Special Spaces have also installed the floor and ceiling and the room has been painted.
“Maddie’s eyes have really been opened by all of the support and love she has received,” said Jameson. “She can’t wait until she gets better so she can start helping other people. She would like to serve as a contact person for other children battling serious illnesses, specifically cancer.”