• Home makeover benefits two with life-threatening illnesses


    NATICK, Mass. (MyFoxBoston.com) – Members of a relatively new non-profit organization spent the weekend in hopes of transforming the home life of a Natick family.

    Siblings Elizabeth and Ben Schickel have life-threatening illnesses.

    Elizabeth got a first look at her completely transformed bedroom, with a brand new bed, furniture, and decor Saturday.

    "It's just so exciting!" she said. "I love my room."

    It was custom designed for Elizabeth, who has brain cancer, to be a comforting retreat away from the hospital where she's spent a lot of time at lately. The room was intentionally filled with different textures, because over the past few months, Elizabeth has been losing her eyesight. In fact, the brain cancer has affected everything, including her motor skills.

    All of the people in Elizabeth's room on Saturday were volunteers for the non-profit Special Spaces Boston, which grants children with life-threatening illnesses like Elizabeth their dream bedrooms.

    "They don't get to go out and play like a lot of normal kids do," said Melinda Cabanilla, an interior designer who founded the local chapter. "We create an environment for them because their bedroom is where they're spending most of their lives."

    Cabanilla hopes to give kids like Elizabeth a place to relax and hopefully get well.

    "I feel like creating an environment that is not only healthy, but beautiful can only create more beautiful children and a healthier child," she said.

    Cabanilla creates ideas on Pinterest with the children to help them design their dream room. She also works with the children's doctors to find out what medical needs she should address in the room.

    She made those ideas come to life Saturday, not just for Elizabeth, but for Elizabeth's brother Ben, too.

    "This is so nice," Ben said. "This is unbelievable."

    Elizabeth isn't the only member of her family fighting cancer. Ben has Stage 4 lymphoma.

    "Elizabeth was diagnosed almost a year ago with a brain tumor," said their mother, Kathy Schickel. "Then we went on a trip, a Make-A-Wish trip in August and Ben was diagnosed while we were on our trip with lymphoma."

    Now the siblings each have a retreat where they can hopefully forget about their health struggles.

    "It's a very classy bachelor pad - I think that's how it's being described at this point," Ben said. "It's just really nice to see all of the volunteers come out - we had 30 here."

    While this family has had more than their fair share of sleepless nights, and nights in the hospital, as they hopefully recuperate, one thing's for sure: Both Elizabeth and Ben will certainly be getting a good night's sleep in their new rooms.

    Jordan's Furniture, Sherwin Williams, Alan Burke Construction, Pink Bean and Home Depot were among some of the stores that donated furniture, paint, and other items.

    Special Spaces Boston is a non-profit organization that is completely donation-based. Anyone who is interested in donating can call Cabanilla at 617-794-3340.

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