Weekly Feature

2011-11-09 / Lifestyles

A space for dreams, a place for happiness

Group designs rooms, grants wishes

A child, a bedroom and a vision. These are the core elements that form Special Spaces, a nonprofit organization with a mission to design and create dream bedrooms for children with life-threatening illnesses.

The Buffalo chapter of the organization, under the direction of Lynn Wall, will soon renovate its first room for a

5-year-old boy named Donovan Benzin, who is now in remission after battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,

Stage IV cancer, and spending 14 weeks at Roswell Park Cancer Institute receiving chemotherapy treatment.

Donovan shared his wishes with the Special Spaces team, which then took the information and began brainstorming ideas for the best way to create his dream room — one with an Army theme.

Wall, a Williamsville resident, said she first heard about Special Spaces while watching a TV show, and something about its message spoke to her, which is why she decided to research starting a chapter in Western New York.  “It tugged at my heartstrings,” Wall said. “It makes you feel so good being a part of something like this.”

According to Beverly Olsen, a member of the group who resides in Lancaster, the first subject for the project “fell right into their laps.” Donovan, a West Seneca resident, is a nephew of one of Wall and Olsen’s good friends, so after attending a benefit for him in August, they decided he would be a great candidate for their room makeover.

Moving forward, Wall said she will connect with liaisons from either Women & Children’s Hospital or Roswell Park Cancer Institute to find children for future projects, a process the entire team is excited to take on. The goal is to complete at least four projects per year.

“We’re not overwhelmed with potential kids yet,” she said. “I know at some point we’re going to have to prioritize, but I can’t see us ever saying no. We’ll definitely have a list, but finding the funding for each room will be key.”

After developing marketing strategies and  fundraising ideas, the team began collecting donations from local businesses and organizations, all of which have donated dollars, decor and supplies to turn Donovan’s bedroom into an Army domain. There is also a website set up for the cause, and once Special Spaces gets more “clients,” potential community and corporate sponsors can go online and read a biography on each child. The businesses can then decide, if interested, how they would like to help fund each project.

On Saturday, Nov. 19, the Special Spaces team will send Donovan out for the day to participate in several activities around Western New York while they construct an entire new room for him to enjoy.

“We’re really hoping this takes off because we want to do many more rooms in the future,” Olsen said.

Special Spaces Buffalo is also holding a fundraiser from 3 to 11 p.m. Monday, Nov. 14, at Chili’s, 4153 Transit Road in Clarence. With each flier presented that evening — available at the restaurant — Chili’s will donate 10 percent of the sales to the organization. For more information on Special Spaces, visit www.specialspacesbuffalo.org.

email: jolenez@beenews.com

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