ROGERS, Minn. - A nonprofit organization just launched in Minneapolis is designed to comfort children in their most difficult of times.
Gracie's Room will offer kids with life threatening illnesses bedroom makeovers.
"If we can make an environment that is healing and comfortable, that eases everything a little bit more," said Jennie Korsbon, an interior designer, who was inspired to help sick children after watching her daughter's friend, Gracie, battle a brain tumor.
"After she passed away, I remember sitting at my desk going, 'I don't know how I will ever get through this, because it was just so hard on me and my family.' And I just felt like I was meant to do something. The one thing I know is interior design, and thought well, if I can make kids feel better inside their space while they are trying to heal and get better, than that is something I can offer," said Korsbon.
Gracie Joles, 8, was the kind of girl who did cartwheels in hospital hallways and flashed peace signs before radiation treatments. Her inoperable brain tumor rarely took her smile, even in the very end. It was then Korsbon realized the importance of a comfortable space for children undergoing difficult illnesses.
Korsbon partnered with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to complete her first bedroom makeover, a dream for Jenna Carnes, 15, who dreamed of a sophisticated bedroom space and made it her Make-A-Wish during her battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common form of leukemia found in children.
"She is very specific about what she wants. She only wants cream and brown," said Korsbon, as she covered Jenna's with her chosen colors.
"It just is a little bit of a distraction from her illness and will be so exciting for her. That's what I am thinking about, seeing her face here at 6 o'clock how excited she is going to be," she said.
"I realized through Gracie, Jenna is getting a gift for Christmas," said Liz Flores, Gracie's mother. "It is heartfelt that a child that is no longer here physically, but continues to be here spiritually."
As a Star Tribune photographer, Flores coped with the difficulty by documenting Gracie's illness in photos, and still realizing every second is critical, poised her camera once again when Jenna walked into her new room. She immediately burst into tears, in disbelief, of the transformation before her.
"I am so grateful and so happy. It is just perfect," said Carnes.
Gone is the purple, cluttered room where Jenna Carnes so often laid in pain. The transformation could only be topped by a final gift from Gracie. Jenna received a necklace Gracie wore, depicting a memory of when she swam with dolphins before her death.
"It is so special," hugging Flores, as they both cried.
It was Gracie's way, whether in the before or the after, inspiring others to find room for light.
If you would like to be involved and make this possible for other kids battling life threatening illnesses, you can help by making a donation to Gracie's Room at 5920 Grass Lake Terrace, Minneapolis, MN 55419, go to www.graciesroom.org or go to the Gracie's Room Facebook page.
(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)