Home makeover 2020: Palatine boy with leukemia gets new bedroom in a box

  • Esai Valadez, 5, smiles in the arms of his mother, Tomiya Valadez-Enderle, on Tuesday as the family, including brother Ethan, 7, and dad, Eric Enderle, check out some of the toys and decor donated by nonprofit group Special Spaces at the family's home in Palatine. Esai is being treated for leukemia.

    Esai Valadez, 5, smiles in the arms of his mother, Tomiya Valadez-Enderle, on Tuesday as the family, including brother Ethan, 7, and dad, Eric Enderle, check out some of the toys and decor donated by nonprofit group Special Spaces at the family's home in Palatine. Esai is being treated for leukemia. Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 7/1/2020 11:09 AM

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.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Esai Valadez, 5, is excited by a box of Roblox figures as he checks out gifts with mom Tomiya Valadez-Enderle that were donated by nonprofit group Special Spaces for a remake of the boy's Palatine bedroom.
Esai Valadez, 5, is excited by a box of Roblox figures as he checks out gifts with mom Tomiya Valadez-Enderle that were donated by nonprofit group Special Spaces for a remake of the boy's Palatine bedroom. - Rick West | Staff Photographer

"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 Valadez's family gives socially distanced high-fives to volunteers from Special Spaces after an unveiling of gifts for a bedroom makeover for the boy and his brother Tuesday in Palatine.
Esai Valadez's family gives socially distanced high-fives to volunteers from Special Spaces after an unveiling of gifts for a bedroom makeover for the boy and his brother Tuesday in Palatine. - Rick West | Staff Photographer
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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."

Esai Valadez, 5, of Palatine looks shy as he hides out until the crowd thins Tuesday during a reveal celebration for his bedroom makeover with a Spider-Man and Roblox theme.
Esai Valadez, 5, of Palatine looks shy as he hides out until the crowd thins Tuesday during a reveal celebration for his bedroom makeover with a Spider-Man and Roblox theme. - Rick West | Staff Photographer

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.

Esai Valadez, 5, of Palatine hides out until the crowd thins Tuesday at a reveal celebration for his bedroom makeover by nonprofit group Special Spaces.
Esai Valadez, 5, of Palatine hides out until the crowd thins Tuesday at a reveal celebration for his bedroom makeover by nonprofit group Special Spaces. - Rick West | Staff Photographer

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.

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