The month of September has been officially designated National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. As a precursor to this month’s observance, interior design expert Kelee Katillac and a team of Heart Hat volunteers from McCarthy, one of America’s leading hospital builders, completed a therapeutic Miracle Room Makeover for an 8-year-old, St. Louis-area boy suffering with brain tumors.
According to the American Childhood Cancer Organization, more than 12,000 children under the age of 19 are diagnosed with cancer every year, and it is the most common cause of death by disease for children and adolescents in America.
“Color can affect mental attitude, assist in pain management and increase wellness,” explained Katillac.
Charlie Grady, the Miracle Room makeover recipient, suffers from Neurofibromatosis type 1. During the makeover, the young boy was in the midst of undergoing his second grueling course of chemotherapy at St. Louis Children’s Hospital to treat life-threatening brain tumors.
“When Kelee approached McCarthy about helping to complete a Miracle Room Makeover for Charlie, it really hit home on so many levels,” explained Scott Wittkop, McCarthy Central Division president. “As one of America’s leading hospital builders, we specialize in building healing environments. Now we could put these skills to work to help make a real difference. Our employees jumped at the chance to get involved.”
In February 2011, Katillac, founder of Design Gives Back, and a team from Guideposts magazine traveled to Missouri to make Charlie’s bedroom into a space of hope and happiness for him during this upcoming year of treatments and beyond. The months of pre-planning for the Miracle Makeover resulted in an intensive week of activities and culminated with an emotional “reveal” as the week came to a close. McCarthy ‘Heart Hats’ volunteers, with Katillac and representatives from Friends of Kids with Cancer, worked diligently to transform Charlie’s bedroom.
“Working closely with Charlie and using art therapy techniques, we were able to identify those colors that had a positive impact for Charlie and then design and build his new room around these,” continued Katillac. With a love of trucks and Thomas the Train, these elements became the heart of the room’s theme.
An important part of any Miracle Makeover includes engaging the family in the healing process while also transforming the physical space. Charlie has two siblings, a brother, Liam, 9 (with whom he shares a bedroom) and sister Kaitlin, 13. “When one child in a family is seriously ill, the other children feel it and suffer in their own way too,” continued Katillac. “Our goal was to provide an emotional outlet and celebrate their life interests through therapeutic art projects that were part of room makeovers for both Liam and Kaitlin.”
Charlie’s parents also participated in the week-long process including a “day of beauty” for mom, Kara. The requirements of chemotherapy have left the family few resources for vacations or down time. The Residence Inn of O’Fallon, Mo., donated rooms and fun amenities for the family’s week.
McCarthy Hearts Hats Project Manager Corey Black coordinated the building process with the design team and managed the team of volunteers. “Working closely with Kelee, we began working on our plan for the construction months in advance,” explained Black. “Packing so many activities into an intense week certainly added a sense of excitement to the process. Seeing the faces of Charlie and his family when the new spaces were revealed was especially meaningful.”
“Using color we were able to help Charlie cope with chemotherapy and stay bright during what most consider a time of darkness,” commented Katillac. “The room for hope and healing we created helped Charlie believe that he could become well again. It provided inspiring colors, images and activities that took his mind off of chemo and kept him positive.”
To make the project a reality was truly a team effort. Key sponsors in addition to McCarthy were Lowe’s, Sachs Electric Company, Residence Inn by Marriot, Flooring Systems, Design Gives Back and Children’s Hospital St. Louis.
“This process has been a miracle for our family,” commented John Grady, Charlie’s father. “It is never easy to have a child who is ill. The Makeover brought so much joy to Charlie and our entire family during a difficult time and continues to do so. And to know that his story will hopefully go on to inspire others really makes it special.”
Want to see more? Watch the emotional Charlie Grade Miracle Makeover reveal.
About Design Gives Back
Interior design expert Kelee Katillac has spent the last twenty years transforming homes and lives. Katillac has been a guest on CNN, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Discovery Channel, Pure Oxygen, The Family Network and many others. Katillac founded Design Gives Back to help those in-need — or critically ill — to have furnished, functional and hope-filled homes. Katillac s currently the Inspired Home Expert for Guideposts: America’s #1 Inspirational Magazine.
About Friends of Kids with Cancer
Friends of Kids with Cancer is a St. Louis nonprofit devoted to enriching the daily lives of kids undergoing treatment for cancer and providing them and their families with the recreational, educational and emotional support needed throughout the long hours of chemotherapy, illness and isolation.
About McCarthy Heart Hats
A 100 percent employee-owned company, McCarthy employees are passionate about building better communities. The McCarthy Heart Hats program is the volunteer-based community outreach program of McCarthy dedicated to ensuring real needs are being met in communities where employees work, live and play.