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Dream Warriors

Local nonprofit Rooms with a Heart is fighting to keep magic and make-believe alive for children experiencing critical illnesses.

Article
Rob Harmon
Photos
Marc Rains
Posted
April 28, 2019

A recent United Kingdom study shows that by the age of 6, most children no longer believe in magic and the world of make-believe. A generation ago, their parents gave up on the world of dreams a little later, at the age of 8.

Whatever your definition of magic may be, whether it is informed by the Harry Potter world, Star Wars or The Lord of the Ring’s Middle-earth, magic and the world of make-believe is a big part of childhood.

Maybe it makes you a little sad to hear that magic is dying in the minds of our children. Perhaps you think it’s good for children to have a healthy dose of reality early in life to prepare them for the real world. Whatever your take might be on the subject, one local non-profit is fighting to keep the dreams alive for children experiencing critical illnesses.

Rooms with a Heart is an organization that creates dream rooms for children with life-threatening illnesses while they’re in the hospital so that when they arrive home, they can heal and be encouraged by a total bedroom makeover of their choosing.

Throughout her journey to help children and their families through Rooms with a Heart, Cheryl Snow, the organization’s president and founder, has been impacted by the families of the children experiencing illness. What is sometimes forgotten, says Snow, is how much the parents and siblings of the children are experiencing stress and trauma of their own. Snow sees the families they’ve been able to serve as tremendous inspiration.

Throughout her journey to help children and their families through Rooms with a Heart, Cheryl Snow, the organization’s president and founder, has been impacted by the families of the children experiencing illness. (Photo: Marc Rains)
Throughout her journey to help children and their families through Rooms with a Heart, Cheryl Snow, the organization’s president and founder, has been impacted by the families of the children experiencing illness. (Photo: Marc Rains)

“We were part of a national organization in St. Louis,” says Snow, “that had a similar concept. My husband and I wanted to bring it back home. After we settled back in Tulsa, we decided to start something similar that helps children and their families. We love seeing their expression when they see their dream room, a sanctuary where they can heal [when they come home from the hospital].”

The name of the organization, amazingly enough, came from Snow’s daughter.

“Our daughter was the one who said, ‘What about Rooms with a Heart?’ And we were like, ‘That’s it.’ ”

Of course, the name stuck and has proven appropriate, because volunteers and staff behind every one of the rooms they’ve designed show tremendous heart for creating magical places for the children to come home to. And the children and their families, according to Snow, have displayed unbelievable heart and spirit through tremendous adversity.

“These parents will do anything for their children,” says Snow. “When you hear their beautiful stories, they’re just an inspiration. The support they need is real, not just financially.”  

Rooms with a Heart receives referrals from hospitals that have already vetted the children and the families, based on the urgency of the illness and other need factors. After meeting with the children and their parents, Rooms with a Heart begin making plans to design a bedroom that the child will come home to after being in the hospital.

The rooms are designed based on the child’s interests. For example, one child has a tremendous passion for dinosaurs, so the Rooms with a Heart team assembled a Jurassic Park-themed room, with dinosaur hooks for jackets and backpacks, stuffed dinosaurs throughout the bedroom and a plaque on the wall with the child’s name on it in the Jurassic World logo style.

Another room is decorated in a “bee motif,” including a bee-themed bedspread, plaques with a quirky, cartoon bee in various poses, and stuffed bee toys.

“Our rooms are usually $3,500 a room,” says Snow. “Depending on the situation, new furniture, flooring, paint, and even changes based on air quality conditions will be done.”

Of course, throughout the year, any support through volunteering, room sponsorship and donations is always welcome. Volunteers with special skills, such as painting, carpentry, and design would be appreciated, but regardless of whether you have those types of skills, Snow says the time and effort of anyone willing to help is much appreciated.

“People realize there is a need,” is what the organization’s founder says there needs to be more of. “We’re not a charity that is going out to the masses. We’re smaller, but we could help so many children. There are so many children we could be doing rooms for. There is a huge need for the number of children with life-threatening illnesses.”

Many individuals have supported the organization since its beginning, but so have businesses in the community.

“We’ve had a huge amount of support from companies and the local communities,” says Snow. “For example, Home Depot is a huge supporter of ours.”

LOCATOR
Rooms with a Heart
918-582-7653
roomswithaheart.org

July 2019 Cover