‘Brightens our day’: Libertyville child battling cancer gets dream bedroom makeover

Kyra Smith got an exciting reveal Monday at her family’s Libertyville home — a Taylor Swift-themed bedroom that draws inspiration from the albums “1989” and “Lover.”

Kyra, 9, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in November 2023, and has been undergoing treatment since as the Libertyville community has rallied around her and the entire Smith family.

“She’s a trouper; she’s a rock star,” said Kyra’s mom, Cindy Smith. “She always has been, but through this, she has shown even more how strong and resilient she is.”

The “dream bedroom makeover,” as nonprofit organization Special Spaces calls it, is part of the organization’s mission to provide bedroom makeovers to every child diagnosed with cancer.

The program, which began 20 years ago on a national level and 11 years ago in Illinois, is funded by sponsors who send a team of volunteers to do the hands-on bedroom revamping work — all in one day.

Under the direction of Special Spaces dream bedroom coordinator Christy Gallagher, a team of volunteers from international spirits company Edrington painted the walls, put together furniture and decorated the room based on ideas and input from Kyra and her twin sister and roommate, Brenna.

  Kyra Smith, 9, gets help from her dad, Jason, to sit in a chair in her newly remodeled bedroom in Libertyville, after nonprofit Special Spaces designed it with a Taylor Swift theme. Behind her are her mother, Cindy, older sister Audra and twin Brenna. John Starks/

“Being able to update it and having more mature and fun elements in their room is I think what they’re most excited about,” Smith said. “Giving them something to look forward to, something that’s all theirs that they got to help inform.”

Gallagher said while the organization’s main focus is on the child battling cancer, they try to do as much as they can for siblings and to make it an exciting event for the whole family.

Along with their work in Kyra’s and Brenna’s room, volunteers also brought a boho vibe to older sister Audra’s room, painting the walls a dusty rose pink and adding new furniture and plants for the 12-year-old.

“It’s just amazing to know that there’s so many resources for children who are going through a tough time and their families,” Smith said. “It really brightens our day.”

  Christy Gallagher, organizer of a room makeover for nine-year-old Kyra Smith, directs the hanging of a lamp in the 9-year-old’s room in Libertyville Monday afternoon. John Starks/

The Illinois chapter of Special Spaces was created in 2013 by Kelly Knox, who continues to serve as director. According to Knox, the Illinois chapter is the most active of nine across the country, and has completed more than 400 bedroom makeovers in 11 years — 75 this year alone.

But Knox said more than 500 children in Illinois are diagnosed with cancer each year, and she hopes that more sponsors and partners will get involved to create dream bedrooms for every child.

  Kyra Smith, middle, sits with her sisters Brenna, left, her twin, and Audra, as they take in her newly remodeled bedroom, designed it in a Taylor Swift theme. John Starks/

“We’ve never been about growth, but always been about saying yes to every child with cancer,” Knox said. “We’re here to stay … We can make a change in one day for a child that will affect their life forever.”

  Kyra Smith talks with friends on her driveway Monday before seeing her newly remodeled bedroom in Libertyville. John Starks/
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