At only 14 years old, Shakera Franklin has already been through more than what most people experience in a lifetime. In May 2013, she was diagnosed with Lymphoma, a type of cancer affecting the white blood cells. With her mother Senta by her side, Shakera underwent rigorous treatment and was declared in remission by September. Unfortunately, her cancer resurfaced in December and she restarted treatment, which meant spending a lot of time recovering at home.
Special Spaces Columbia, part of the national network of Special Spaces chapters across the country, creates dream bedrooms for children with life-threatening medical conditions. The organization provides children with their own space for hope and inspiration, and a place to find peace and comfort. Since 2004, 36 Special Spaces chapters across the U.S. have created hundreds of bedrooms for children in need.
Although Shakera spent a lot of time recovering at home, her bedroom wasn’t a place of solace. Along with the physical and emotional burdens of her treatment came financial ones. Senta was unable to improve Shakera’s room and even their living room was bare because she couldn’t afford to buy furnishings. Inspired by their story, Special Spaces Columbia Director Faith Glazer was eager to give Shakera the special space she deserved.
“Special Spaces gives children their dream bedrooms – a place where they’re away from the hospital and treatments they have to endure,” Faith said. “Here they can be comfortable, feel safe and recuperate.”
Together, Faith and Shakera designed her new room to match her style. Faith and a team of volunteers sent Shakera and Senta to the zoo for the day while they renovated. The bedroom got new hardwood flooring, purple and zebra stripe décor, and a new entertainment center. When Shakera and Senta arrived home, they were surprised to find that Special Spaces also made over their living room, installing a new carpet, couch, love seat, coffee table, and computer desk and chair. “It was amazing to walk in and see the great things they did for us,” Senta said. “The new bedroom is just what Shakera needed since she’s going through so much. It gives her a place to go to relax and find serenity, something I couldn’t have afforded on my own.”
Shakera enjoys having a room that fits her style and gives her a place to retreat to. “Once you’re diagnosed with cancer, you don’t know what the future holds,” she said. “Having a space like this helps you not think about your problems as much because you’re in a place that’s relaxing and awesome.”
Now that she’s back in treatment, Shakera is homeschooled and her new computer desk and chair are a great place to study. In her bedroom, the new full-size bed doubles as a couch where she and her friends can watch movies. These new spaces have allowed Shakera to open her home for friends to visit. Spending more time with friends has offered Shakera extra support and impacted her life in positive ways. “Before, we never had people over because we weren’t proud of what we had,” Senta said. “Now Shakera has friends over all the time.”
Although only established last year, Faith expects that Special Spaces Columbia will continue to grow with more community support and involvement. The chapter already has two children on the waiting list and plans to do the next room this spring.
For more information about Special Spaces, visit www.specialspaces.org.