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Summer Archives

Sam Welch

Naperville, Illinois - Special Spaces

Special Spaces is a nationwide 501(c)(3) that creates dream bedroom makeovers for children with cancer. I worked with this organization in high school, primarily from a fundraising and volunteer coordination perspective. Coming into this summer, Special Spaces was entering a period of expansion, and Nashville was one of the targeted areas of growth. My summer project would consist of working with the National Director of Development to pilot a Nashville chapter through the completion of two dream bedroom makeovers. I would use our experiences from the summer to create a template assisting in chapter expansion nationwide. Unfortunately, COVID-19 threw a wrench in these plans, and it was no longer feasible to develop the Special Spaces Nashville Chapter. Bedroom makeovers for Special Spaces families were also put on hold, especially since the pediatric cancer population is one of the most at-risk communities to COVID. To engage families, sponsors, and volunteers, Special Spaces had to pivot. As soon as the school year ended, I got to work with the National Director of Development in hopes of finding a new focal point. After a few weeks of brainstorming and hashing out details, we came up with “Bedroom in a Box.” It is a relatively simple concept that helps Special Spaces stay relevant in the short term and provide a sustainable long term solution to something that may not go away for the foreseeable future. It is a physically distant but socially active bedroom makeover process. All preparations for the makeover happen virtually. Instead of the bedroom makeover being done inside the family's home by volunteers, there is a coordinated delivery of all the items for the child's bedroom, culminating in a physically distant reveal celebration. Sponsors and volunteers alike are encouraged to attend while adhering to CDC guidelines. Instead of volunteers completing the bedroom for the day, the family will have a month to complete the bedroom themselves with the assistance of the Special Spaces director running their makeover. Working with the National Director for Development, we pitched our idea to the Special Spaces National Office, where they approved our pilot and allowed us to test the process for three families in the Chicagoland area. By the end of the summer, we had a physically distant bedroom makeover process created from scratch, and the three original bedroom makeovers had gone smoothly enough for us to complete another three. We were shocked by how much the families got out of the experience - it seemed as though these makeovers were almost more impactful than a typical makeover due to the unique circumstances at hand. I presented our pilot and its results to the rest of the chapters around the country, and “Bedroom in a Box” will become an alternative to in-person makeovers for all thirteen chapters nationwide starting in September.