WOODRIDGE – When Samuel Tavolino ran up the stairs to see his new bedroom last week, the only sound to be heard was the 6-year-old’s screams of, “Awesome!”
With red and blue walls, a hand-painted cartoon jet, helicopter and Captain America adventure scene, the Woodridge boy looked on at his newly renovated bedroom with true awe.
The dream bedroom was created by Special Spaces Chicagoland, a nonprofit group that designs and constructs bedrooms for children fighting critical illnesses.
Samuel was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in March 2012.
For his mother, Donna Tavolino, seeing a smile on the face of her son warmed her heart.
“It’s bittersweet,” she said. “It stinks that we’re in this position in the first place but then you find all these people who have so much good in their hearts and who are willing to do things for you and your family.”
One morning almost two years ago, Samuel woke up sick. His mother thought it was a sinus infection but the next day he was diagnosed with leukemia.
After 30 days of rigorous chemotherapy, Samuel was declared in remission. He still is but has about another year of treatment left.
“The first year was horrible but now he gets the same [treatment] regime,” Donna Tavolino said.
“He’s a tough kid. He never complains and never cries. He’s a very special kid.”
The bedroom remodel is the 14th room makeover for the Naperville-based Special Spaces Chicagoland, according to Kelly Knox, branch founder.
She said the organization usually creates one bedroom a month, adding that they’re already booked for all of 2014 and have a wait list for 2015.
For each room design, Knox finds a sponsor – Coldwell Banker in Samuel’s case – and then begins the eight-week process, she said, adding that most rooms take about 10 to 12 hours to complete.
“This is so gratifying every day ... it’s absolutely amazing,” Knox said. “This is the best feeling in the whole world.”
Special Spaces Chicagoland also works with From One Kid 2 Another – a Naperville-based charity started by Knox’s neighbors, Peggy and Kelly Chinn.
For Samuel’s reveal, From One Kid 2 Another provided new toys for him, his 8-year-old brother, Tristin, and his 4-year-old sister, Sabrina, courtesy of Imaginext Toys.
About five hospitals from the area reach out to Special Spaces, along with family members, friends and neighbors with children in need, according to Knox.
“Every child who’s sick deserves some happiness and that’s what we’re doing,” Knox said.
Once a child is chosen, a team from Special Spaces interviews the child to get an understanding of his or her favorite colors, themes and wishes.
At the room reveal last week, Donna Tavolino said Samuel’s new room is “absolutely perfect.”
“[Special Spaces] is one amazing charity that does amazing things,” she said, adding that she and her husband Mark hope to become more involved with the organization in the future.
Seeing her son excited and happy during the reveal was all that mattered, according to Donna Tavolino.
“He’s ecstatic,” she said. “And 10 minutes of happiness for him to forget what he has to go through is absolutely priceless.”
While the family will never be worry free, she said once the treatment is over, there’s a 90 percent chance it won’t come back.
“Samuel’s gone through more in life than I ever have,” the mother said. “…No kid should have to go through this.”