Group gets warm welcome

Sue Guinn Legg • Sep 13, 2012 at 9:15 AM

When Special Spaces Tri-Cities, the new local affiliate of the national nonprofit organization that provides dream bedroom makeovers for children with life-impacting illnesses, began work in December, its goal was to make a difference in the lives of four children and their families every year.

But that was before the affiliate’s cofounders, Krista Matthews Wharton and Tamara Hutson Marshall, realized how warmly the community would embrace their mission or how many and how much people and businesses across the region would want to be involved.

The organization’s new website, specialspacestricities.org, explains their purpose this way: “Most children facing a life-threatening illness can’t play outside with their friends and the only space they know for months, outside of doctors’ offices and hospitals, is their bedroom. Because of high medical bills and time constraints, many parents cannot afford to give their child a special space to call their own. That’s when Special Spaces steps in. We work closely with the Child-Life Specialist at Niswonger Children’s Hospital and she refers patients to us to receive a ‘special space.’ ”

“We have found so much support in the community,” Wharton said Wednesday. So much that Specials Spaces next bedroom makeover, set for Sept. 22 at the Johnson City home of 4-year-old Jackson Whaley, will be the sixth one they’ve facilitated in their first 10 months of operation.

Blackburn Childress & Steagall’s CPA and Consultants are the project sponsor for Jackson’s bedroom, which will be redone in the bright and colorful theme of the his favorite Disney Junior network show, “Imagination Movers.” BCS has donated $5,000 that will cover all the cost of the new decorations and furnishings as well as some special therapy equipment for Jackson. And they will also serve as Special Spaces’ volunteer partner on the project, providing all labor for the one-day makeover.

Wharton said the condition Jackson suffers is known as Pierre Robin syndrome and involves a series of anomalies that have impaired his ability to swallow and speak. His vision in also impaired to an unknown degree and so far he’s not been able to stand up and walk. But he’s making progress, and what is known is that Jackson seems to understand everything that goes on around him and he’s particularly fond of bright lights and colors. And his new room will be filled with plenty of both.

While the generous support of BCS has his room makeover covered, there are a couple of special wishes for Jackson that Special Spaces still hopes to fill. His therapist has told Wharton and Marshall about an iPad application that can help Jackson communicate and the women are searching now for anyone would like to help give him the iPad to put that application to work. And because he overheats easily, his parents, both teachers who also have a set of 1-year-old twins, are in need of a special portable air conditioner unit that can be moved with him from room to room.

Special Spaces seventh and eighth room makeovers are tentatively planned for November and January. Their service area covers the same multi-state area as the children’s hospital. And project sponsors are always are welcomed.

More information about the work of Special Spaces Tri-Cities, including a benefit tennis tournament coming up Oct. 1, can be found at their website or may be obtained by calling Wharton at 865-748-3445 or Marshall at 483-8344. Updates on their projects are also posted regularly at the Special Spaces Tri-Cities Facebook page.

Holston Valley Medical Center in Kingsport will host a benefit “trunk sale” Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the hospital’s Ravine Street parking garage. Wellmont Health System employees have rented parking spaces in the garage from which they will be selling their unneeded items to benefit Wellmont’s annual employee giving campaign for area United Way agencies, Children’s Miracle Network services, services for cancer patients and other charitable programs at work in the community and in the health system. Popcorn and drinks will also be available for purchase. The public is invited to come and shop, although all parking space vendor slots have been reserved for employees. For more information about the sale, call Brenda White at 224-6810.

If there is a need or a project in your neighborhood the Good Neighbor column can assist with, contact Sue Guinn Legg at slegg@johnsoncitypress.com, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605 1717 or 929-3111, ext. 335.

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