Home makeover 2020: Palatine boy with leukemia gets new bedroom in a box
It took a little coaxing, but 5-year-old cancer patient Esai Valadez climbed aboard his father's shoulders Tuesday morning and was carried out onto the driveway of the family's Palatine home for a sneak peek at his bedroom of the future.
With Kool and the Gang's "Celebration" playing, about 25 Special Spaces volunteers cheered as Esai and parents Eric Enderle and Tomiya Valadez-Enderle feasted their eyes on the setup featuring elements from Spider-Man and the online gaming platform Roblox.
"I'm giving everybody virtual hugs," a grateful Valadez-Enderle told the volunteers.
Nonprofit Special Spaces creates dream bedroom makeovers for children ages 2 to 19 diagnosed with cancer and within one year of treatment. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, volunteers no longer are working inside homes and instead have shifted to what they're calling "bedroom in a box."
Families now wait in their homes while volunteers work outside, followed by the big driveway reveal. The family then assembles everything inside for the remodeled bedroom, with donated materials and detailed instructions.
Esai's parents were ready to go to work immediately Tuesday.
Enderle said Esai's leukemia is in remission, but he remains in maintenance treatment. Esai, who was reluctant to exit his home until he was carried by his dad, and his 7-year-old brother, Ethan, will share the room.
"He has to go get spinal taps every three months, which is pretty intense for a 5-year-old, and then every day he has to take medicine and steroids," Enderle said. "And it's been a rough challenge. It really has. But he's pulling through and it's awesome. It's going to make everybody stronger, I think."
Valadez-Enderle said the themed bedroom will be a morale booster for her son, who was diagnosed with cancer in late 2018.
Highlights include two gaming chairs, a Spider-Man doll, Roblox pillow, two beds, an Xbox One video game console, two dressers and custom paintings.
Volunteers decorated the front lawn with a sign reading "Reveal In Progress," wrote messages in chalk on the driveway and hung cheerful posters.
Kelly Knox, Special Spaces' national director of development and Naperville-based leader of its Illinois chapter, said the volunteers and donations for Esai's room came from Assurance in Schaumburg. She said Special Spaces has been in Illinois since 2013 and crafts new bedrooms across the Chicago area.
Knox said 13-year-old Palatine cancer survivor Kennedy Khalimsky nominated Esai for the bedroom makeover. Kennedy is a previous dream bedroom recipient.
Valadez-Enderle said the connection for the nomination came from David Morris, principal of Pleasant Hill Elementary School in Palatine. Esai is expected to join his brother for the new school year at Pleasant Hill, which is part of Palatine Township Elementary District 15.