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