Super Mario and firefighters: Palatine students create themed bedrooms for young cancer patients

  • A Super Mario Brothers-themed bedroom was created for 8-year-old Palatine resident Angel, bottom left, by volunteers from Fremd High School. At bottom right, student Max Malak, teacher Josh Cattero and student Mikayla Rau paint components for the bedroom.

    A Super Mario Brothers-themed bedroom was created for 8-year-old Palatine resident Angel, bottom left, by volunteers from Fremd High School. At bottom right, student Max Malak, teacher Josh Cattero and student Mikayla Rau paint components for the bedroom. Courtesy of High School District 211

  • William Fremd High School teacher Josh Cattero, bottom, and student Max Malak work on creating a Super Mario Brothers-themed bedroom for an 8-year-old Palatine boy with cancer.

    William Fremd High School teacher Josh Cattero, bottom, and student Max Malak work on creating a Super Mario Brothers-themed bedroom for an 8-year-old Palatine boy with cancer. Courtesy of High School District 211

  • Fremd High School volunteers Catherine Carlisle, left, and Annika Titze, right, work with Kelly Novins from the nonprofit Special Spaces to organize a bedroom makeover.

    Fremd High School volunteers Catherine Carlisle, left, and Annika Titze, right, work with Kelly Novins from the nonprofit Special Spaces to organize a bedroom makeover. Courtesy of High School District 211

  • William Fremd High School student Max Malak, left, teacher Josh Cattero, middle, and student Mikayla Rau, right, paint pieces that will eventually go into a Super Mario Brothers-themed new bedroom for an 8-year-old Palatine boy with cancer.

    William Fremd High School student Max Malak, left, teacher Josh Cattero, middle, and student Mikayla Rau, right, paint pieces that will eventually go into a Super Mario Brothers-themed new bedroom for an 8-year-old Palatine boy with cancer. Courtesy of High School District 211

  • William Fremd High School students Braeden Newby and Alexis Parlier work on the firehouse-themed bedroom for Jeremias.

    William Fremd High School students Braeden Newby and Alexis Parlier work on the firehouse-themed bedroom for Jeremias. Courtesy of High School District 211

  • Eight-year-old cancer patient Angel shortly after being introduced to his new Super Mario Brothers-themed bedroom in his Palatine home. Knox the Bear is a mascot of Special Spaces, the nonprofit that provided the expertise for the Fremd High School project.

    Eight-year-old cancer patient Angel shortly after being introduced to his new Super Mario Brothers-themed bedroom in his Palatine home. Knox the Bear is a mascot of Special Spaces, the nonprofit that provided the expertise for the Fremd High School project. Courtesy of High School District 211

  • Three-year-old cancer patient Jeremias of Palatine is attended to by his mother after being introduced to his new firehouse-themed bedroom.

    Three-year-old cancer patient Jeremias of Palatine is attended to by his mother after being introduced to his new firehouse-themed bedroom. Courtesy of High School District 211

 
 
Posted11/29/2021 5:30 AM

The holidays have been made brighter for two young Palatine boys battling cancer, after students and staff at William Fremd High School teamed up with a national nonprofit to give them dream bedroom makeovers.

Students at the Palatine school raised money and used their skills from construction and interior design classes to transform the bedrooms of 3-year-old Jeremias and 8-year-old Angel earlier this month.

 

"I was kind of just happy that I spent my days helping someone else," said Fremd senior Daniella Spankowski, who helped design Jeremias' firehouse-themed bedroom.

Fremd Assistant Principal Hamid Mehreioskouei was familiar with Special Spaces, a Tennessee-based organization that provides dream bedrooms for children facing cancer, and thought about the high school pursuing a local project more than a year ago. Complications from COVID-19 slowed down the process, and it was unclear whether they could find a someone in the area to help.

But then, earlier this school year, he was offered a choice of two Palatine kids who had been approved for the Special Spaces treatment. The school decided to do both.

"I really couldn't say no to either one," Mehreioskouei said.

The plan was to raise $5,000 and then divide the money between the two projects, with 20% of the money paying for minor upgrades to the bedrooms of the often overlooked siblings of young cancer patients.

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"It hits the whole family," Mehreioskouei said.

But the fall fundraising effort, along with some leftover money from an earlier student project, ended up giving students just under $9,000 to work with.

Among the particularly successful fundraising efforts involved getting several teachers to volunteer to be potentially hit with a pie in the face. Students voted with their dollars for the two "winners."

Daniella used the skills learned from her interior design class on Jeremias' room. The firehouse theme was his choice, but students designed it to adapt to his ability to see only contrasting colors.

The makeover provided 3-year-old Jeremias an opportunity to move him up from a crib to a twin-size medical bed. The new shelving in his room is able to be changed to different heights as he gets older and taller.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Eight-year-old cancer patient Angel models his new Fremd High School gear after Fremd students and the nonprofit agency Special Spaces created a Super Mario Brothers-themed bedroom makeover for him.
Eight-year-old cancer patient Angel models his new Fremd High School gear after Fremd students and the nonprofit agency Special Spaces created a Super Mario Brothers-themed bedroom makeover for him. - Courtesy of High School District 211

Fremd junior Max Malak put his knowledge from construction class with his work on Angel's Super Mario Brothers-themed bedroom, which included construction of a facsimile Nintendo Switch game system and the painting of characters on the wall.

"He was just astonished, shocked," Malak said of Angel's reaction when his new room was revealed. "The best part was the reaction. It made the whole time worth it."

While the preparations for the work took place over a month, the students had only a matter of hours on a Saturday to complete the job while the young beneficiaries were away.

Mehreioskouei said he was touched by the reactions of the young kids, but just as pleased that all the Fremd students who worked on the projects understood the true meaning behind them.

"Our goal here is to create student leaders who can become great citizens when they leave us," he said. "We're part of the same community and look out for one another."

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