When a family faces a crisis like cancer, the little things from friends, family and strangers can make all the difference.
Color Your Corner, a non-profit group, decorates children’s bedrooms to make them a special place when a young patient returns home from the hospital.
Courtney Jones of Twinsburg was one of those children who received a bedroom makeover. In January, Courtney, then 10, was diagnosed with leukemia.
She went from playing on the slopes of Brandywine Ski Resort one day to being in the hospital the next, said her mother, Alisha Jones.
Courtney was treated at the University Hospital Rainbow Babies and Children’s Pediatric Cancer unit.
"She’s been in the hospital all summer," Alisha said.
Courtney was an active child, participating in dance, ice skating, karate and swimming.
"During the winter holidays she had lost a lot of energy, and she's a very energetic girl," Alisha said. "For her to say she was tired, it was peculiar."
At first the pediatrician gave her antibiotics, but they didn't work, Alisha said. At the end of January, she had a lump on her neck. The doctor sent her to the main campus of Rainbow Babies University Hospital, and she didn't leave the hospital for a month after that.
"We checked in but didn't check out," Alisha said.
While Courtney was in the hospital, they were put into contact with the life specialist department which helps kids with cancer cope and manage the illness and treatments they face.
Color Your Corner enlisted Chris Roblin of Interior Design to transform Courtney's room.
"I like when they call me," Roblin said. "I get so immersed."
Children need a place at home to be a haven, Roblin said.
"I met with Courtney at the beginning to discuss her thoughts," Roblin said.
Courtney wanted sparkle, fluff and a girlie-girl look, Roblin said. "But we also talked about growing up and being able to change the artwork and accents as she becomes older."
"The room can grow with her," Roblin said. "We lightened up the room with white furniture and gave her a place to do homework."
Because Color Your Corner relies on donations and has a limited budget, Roblin tries to get the "most bang for the buck."
"I ask for favors, and others have been generous," Roblin said. "But I can't do that all the time. You want to use every dime wisely to fulfill their wishes."
Courtney came home Aug. 4 and loves her new bedroom, Alisha said.
"They gave her a happy place to come home to," Alisha said. "She loved participating in the design process, color and décor selections."
Workers painted her room, added room darkening blinds, curtains and a chandelier. She also has a new bedroom set.
"It looks like a glamorous model home with a chandelier and beautiful vanity with a mirror so she can put her wig on," Alisha said.
Color Your Corner and Roblin gave her a space to feel beautiful and happy, Alisha said.
"Courtney loves those home shows where there's a big reveal at the end," Alisha said. "She wanted that."
On Aug. 19, Courtney celebrated her 11th birthday with many of the people who supported her journey, Alisha said. Courtney will meet her teacher and classmates but will be home schooled because of her lack of immunity. She will receive treatment for up to three years.
Courtney will resume chemotherapy but she should get the rest of her treatment on an outpatient basis, she said.
Courtney is very social and misses her friends, Alisha said. Classmates at Dodge Intermediate School send cards and teacher Kris Jensen organized help by providing meals.
"She's amazing," Alisha said.
Debbie Monahan and interior designer Halle Chiappone began Color Your Corner in 2004. They have fundraisers and accept donations at www.colorourcorner.org.
Color Your Corner has decorated more than 100 rooms and has taken on larger projects, Monahan said. They ask an interior designer to work with the child and create a new look for the bedroom.
"It's been heartwarming to know in the end people are innately good, and they want to do something good for someone else," Monahan said. "For a designer, who likes working with kids, it's great."