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Nonprofit gives room makeovers for Colorado kids in medical crisis

Posted at 9:17 PM, Jun 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-27 17:15:11-04

THORNTON, Colo. -- Home means something different for everyone.

For most of 5-year-old Owen McLaughlin's life, home has too often been the halls of the hospital. Diagnosed with brain cancer and severe autism, he has always been a fighter.

"He's been in and out since he was 13 months old. That's all he's known, is the hospital," said his mother, Rachel Hurtado. "He's a fighter, so it makes us stronger."

Still, as he fights cancers, his family's finances are tight, and they are living in his grandparent's basement to help cover medical bills.

"It's tough," said Hurtado. "It's extremely difficult to not be able to help your kid when they're sick, and you want to take it away and there's nothing you can do."

Enter a group of Colorado interior designers on a mission.

"We want to use our professional skills as designers to create what we call 'a room to heal,'" said Jessica Duce, a Denver designer who just founded the first Denver chapter of Savvy Giving By Design, a national nonprofit that gives free room makeovers to kids in medical crisis.

For Own, Duce consulted his therapist to create a room filled with sensory objects and safe spaces, including a bed of his own.

"We brought the park to him, and we added these lights because of low lighting for sensory," she said. "We tore out the closet and created what we are calling Owen's clubhouse, because the therapist said he needed a private but open space."

The first time Owen sees his new room his face breaks into a giant smile, and it wasn't just Owen in for a surprise. His big sister Brylie, always by his side, was in for a surprise, too. Her room also got a makeover inspired by her favorite movie, "The Greatest Showman."

For a moment, both kids are laughing and happy, no longer in the hospital, not fighting to survive. They are just home.

"When you see him and his face lights up, all that goes away," said Hurtado. "You don't think about the cancer or the autism or anything like that. You just see him as a normal little boy."

Meanwhile, Duce said, they are already looking for their next family to help, while enjoying watching this one have a moment of healing.

"It was so worth it," said Duce. "I just want them to love their space and not have to worry, because they have a lot on their plate. We’re all very fortunate and we need to share our gifts however we can."

These makeovers are completely free for the families, and Savvy Giving by Design is looking for more deserving families to help. Here is where you can apply.

You can donate for the Denver chapter to JDuce Design here.