Special Spaces: Changing Lives One Bedroom at a Time

Here at Steinhafels, we are humbled to play a small role in so many wonderful community organizations. One of those groups is Special Spaces Wisconsin, which helps to create dream bedrooms for children with life-threatening medical conditions.

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We’ve partnered with Special Spaces for several years now. The Steinhafels mission is to help people create the homes of their dreams–so Special Spaces is a perfect fit. In a typical interior design project, the living room or family room is usually the focal point of the redesign. But in the case of Special Spaces, the bedroom is the crown jewel of the project! We get to help furnish bedrooms that are true escapes and safe spaces for kids who just want to be kids.

Today we’re going to take a closer look at a recent project in Milwaukee. KK is a 10-year-old who’s been through more in her short life than most of us can even imagine battling in a lifetime. She was in the hospital during her dream bedroom makeover, but when she finally made it home she was delighted to discover her very own “special space” to heal, find comfort and peace.

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KK’s story has been an inspiration to Steinhafels Waukesha Sales Manager Becky Morgan. Becky took some time to tell us more about the Special Spaces program, and why KK’s story has had such an impact on her.

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What inspires you about KK’s story?

Becky: “She’s a fighter! She beat leukemia, had a heart transplant, her body is fighting her new heart, and her leukemia came back. This little girl is just 10 years old. No one should ever have to experience this, let alone a child. Her focus should be on Pokemon and enjoying life, not fighting to live.”

You mentioned KK’s mom being an amazing woman. Tell us a little more about her.

“KK’s Mom. She is a single mother who works in a nursing home, and raises 10 children varying in age from 18-3. When I first visited the home, the children were all happy, there were wonderful notes from school on the fridge, extra curricular activities posted with pride on the fridge, thankful children (one of the youngest was so excited about the gallons of milk in the fridge, he kept saying thank you, thank you). I grew up with both parents and only one sibling, and I know that was not an easy task, so for one parent dealing with the amount of curve balls she has been given–she is truly an impressive mother!”

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What was the focus with KK’s bedroom redesign?

“KK really loves Pokemon and that was the focus for her space. Special Spaces meets with the family and child to make sure they get what they want. The most important part was making sure they had beds, and a bright space to retreat to when needed. The 2 other bedrooms were made to feel the same way–new beds, and space of their own.”

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The Steinhafels Waukesha Store Sales Team held a food and supply drive for KK and her family. Can you tell us more about this?

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“The supply drive came about as I was sitting with a coworker, talking about the needs for this family and how hard the mom works. I am about to be a mother myself, and hearing the heartache that this family is going through brought me to tears. My mother in law also has cancer and she is such a fighter, but I know the toll it takes on her each and every time she has chemo or a bad day. She needs comfort, space and basic necessities. As I was listening to the needs of the family I could not help but immediately want to dive in and get what I could. My parents also taught us to give when we can and to always help others, so to me this was top priority.”

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“We also have some amazing sales associates on our staff. Cheri (a Bedroom Specialist) overheard the needs and immediately said we need to help this family! I talked with our staff and they were all ready to help. They suggested a food drive. I was ecstatic that they were all so ready to jump in and help. They came everyday with food and daily necessities. We also had a great deal of cash donations. With the cash donations I went and got each child and mother a little caddy that I filled with shampoo, conditioner, lotion, soap, toothbrushes, hair brushes, nail polish (they needed something fun), hair ties, deodorant, razors, shaving cream, chapstick, etc. We made the mom a special basket filled with pampering products like face-masks, bubble bath, soothing lotion, etc. We were also able to fill a laundry basket with cleaning supplies, hand soaps, detergent, laundry needs, feminine products, kitchen products, toilet paper, paper towels, paper plates, cooking supplies, and extra soaps and toothbrushes. It was also very important for me to get a huge tub of animal crackers as this was part of the story on their initial visit (the little guy wanted some, and what kid should go without animal crackers??)”

“Renae Williams (Bedroom Specialist) also took it upon herself to make sure each child and their mother had brand new pillows. She came in like Santa Clause with a bag larger than her, filled with brand new pillows–because she said everyone needs a comfy pillow. Steinhafels donated some decorative pillows to jazz up the space too! Kas Oriental Rugs also donated four beautiful rugs for the family, one for each of the bedrooms, and a beautiful rug for their living room.”

How proud are you of your staff?

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“I couldn’t be more proud of them! All I did was tell them this family’s story. They took their own initiative to make such an impact on this. I said give what you can, bring a can good or a toothbrush. They went so far above and beyond, it brought tears to my eyes every single time I walked into our break room, and then watching the family’s faces as they walked into their home was one of the best feelings I have ever had. I am so proud to be a part of this team–I could not ask for better people to surround myself with. Steinhafels is so very lucky to have these wonderful people working for them!”

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We also want to give a shout-out to the Woman’s Club of Wisconsin, Majic Productions, and all of the other amazing volunteers for their work on this makeover. We are so glad we could play a part in bringing a smile to KK’s face!

Steinhafels and Randall Cobb team up to “Go Gold,” and fight childhood cancer

Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb is known for his slick moves and poise on the football field, but it’s what he’s doing off the field that truly has some families in Wisconsin proud to call him their favorite Packer.

Cobb and his wife Aiyda are involved with “Gold in September,” a childhood cancer non-profit dedicated to increasing funding for childhood cancer research.

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Gold In September (G9) was created by Annie Bartosz of Hartland. Annie’s twin brother Jack was diagnosed with cancer when they were just 4 years old. Jack died after battling for almost 7 years, and Annie became determined to turn the world “Gold” In September for every child.

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G9 partners with Centers of Excellence Hospitals across the country–which can offer Phase 1 Clinical Trials. G9 also works with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for these various hospitals in just a few short years. You can learn more about how to donate to G9 HERE.

Cobb recently joined in the fight, and Annie actually first got to meet him at a recent event at our Appleton store!! To see her reaction when she first met one of her football idols was just priceless.

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Annie recalls that special moment. “It was really cool. I was obviously blown away, since he’s one of my favorite football players. I was also blown away by the fact that he’s just so humble and down to earth despite being a Wisconsin celebrity and NFL celebrity. And just…he’s not trying to take credit for anything. He just wants to do his part in helping the world be a better place, and I think that’s really cool.”

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The event was a special appearance by Cobb and fundraiser for G9. Cobb, Annie, and her mother Sarah all took a few minutes to speak to the crowd, and Cobb was gracious enough to take pictures with guests. The event was produced by the USA TODAY NETWORK – Wisconsin. Check out this video we produced to hear Cobb’s special message for all of us.

We spoke with Sarah and Annie briefly after the event–about their struggles with losing a brother, son, father, and husband to cancer (Annie’s father John died a couple years ago after succumbing to the long term effects of cancer treatments he had years ago). Their story truly is heartbreaking and inspiring one that we can all learn from.

Steinhafels: What is the G9 message?

Sarah: Gold in September is a very simple concept. Gold (G) is the color for childhood cancer, and September (9) is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. I think awareness will drive action, and what we really want people to do is think about Gold in September, in the month of September, as awareness month. But now we have 11 months of action. It is every day–there are children diagnosed every day, there are children dying…every day. That cannot be our reality. We want to make sure kids not only survive, but thrive, following a cancer diagnosis. And when the community comes together, not only are we supplying funding for new research and  clinical trials, but really, that’s the hope that families need to be able to put one foot in front of the other, day after day, in the face of something that is so incredibly unbelievable, and difficult to handle.

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Steinhafels: How do you do it, after all you’ve been through?

Sarah: I don’t know. There are days I’d like to just lay in bed. I miss my son Jack tremendously, I can’t even put into words. He should be turning 16 and taking Drivers Ed classes. My husband John was diagnosed in his early 20’s, and survived another 20 years, but died in his 40’s. When you ask how do I do this…I don’t want anyone else to feel like this. I don’t want anyone else to feel the sadness and despair that our family feels. We have more laughter in our house than tears, I’m proud to say that. We know that’s what Jack and John would want, and we’re just trying to fulfill the hope and enthusiasm they brought towards life. We can do that for ourselves and help people along the way as we go.

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Steinhafels: Annie, you’re just a kid, but you’ve been through alot. What do you want to tell other kids who are struggling?

Annie: I want to let other kids know they’re not alone, and they can do their part in making a difference in the world, whether it’s helping one kid have a smile on their face today, or helping many kids hopefully have the chance to survive cancer. And I just think you can do anything you put your mind to. I never thought Gold in September would be this big–so let your dreams run wild, cuz you never know what will come from them.

Well put Annie–LET YOUR DREAMS RUN WILD! It’s events like these that truly bring us all together as a community, and we at Steinhafels hope this is just the beginning of a long partnership with Annie, Sarah, Cobb, and Gold in September.

Check out a full photo gallery of the event HERE!

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Purple Survivor Couch: One Woman’s Story

Steinhafels is constantly looking for new and unique ways to partner with the community for various projects and events.  While we donate money to a variety of causes, we also like when our wonderful furniture can serve a higher purpose.  After all, furniture helps to bring families together, and a good piece of furniture can last for generations!

That was the case with the American Cancer Society of Southeast Wisconsin.  They approached us and asked if we could help with their Relay For Life events this summer.  Steinhafels and ACS brainstormed, and we came up with the “Purple Survivor Couch” idea.  The purple couch traveled to several relays, and served as a symbol of survival and hope.

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Check out our PURPLE COUCH SURVIVOR STORIES if you haven’t seen it!

In addition to being a comfy place to pop a squat during relays, the purple couch was also part of a Giveaway to help raise money for Relay.  Many survivors and other relayers entered the contest.

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The lucky winner was announced at the big Kenosha Relay for Life event.  Cancer survivor Nancy Brey is now the proud owner of the purple couch!

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Nancy lives in Twin Lakes and is a retired nurse.  As you will learn, her cancer journey is a very unique one.

NANCY’S STORY

Nancy is 65 years old.  She’s a wife to husband Steve for 45 years, a loving mother to 3 sons, and doting grandma to 13 grandkids!  She’s a retired nurse, and says she has lived a very blessed life… but things could have been very different for Nancy.  You see, she is also a 54-year cancer survivor!!!

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The oldest of 6 children, Nancy grew up on a dairy farm in Paris Township in Kenosha County.  She was a typical kid…until she turned 11, and everything changed.

”This was towards the end of my school year.  Everything I ate came back up, and I knew something was wrong,” Nancy recalls.

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A tumor had formed in Nancy’s small intestine.  She was diagnosed with sarcoma of the small intestine, now commonly known as colon cancer.  Nancy admits, ”It was scary.  I didn’t find out I had the cancer until I was older.  You didn’t say the ‘C word’ to people back in that day.”

Nancy’s parents chose surgery only, and no cobalt therapy.  Although Nancy doesn’t remember much about that time, she is thankful to her parents and the medical staff that took care of her.

In fact, Nancy was so thankful, she decided to pursue a career in the medical field.  She started as a medical assistant, and eventually became a Registered Nurse.  Nancy’s primary role was managing the Hospice House in Kenosha.  ”To see all those people go what they go through, and being able to be there… the greatest reward is being able to help the families and patients go through this journey they are going through.  That has been the most rewarding of all my career,” she says.

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Nancy has also taken part in the Kenosha Relay For Life for many years.  She wants to support fellow cancer survivors, and honor those who have lost their battle, like her cousin’s son who died of leukemia.  She is honored to see the thousands of people who come out for Relay events.  “This is out here, we have to cure this.  That’s why it’s so important.”

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She is excited to be the new owner of the Steinhafels Purple Couch!  She says it’ll be helpful when the family comes over.  Nancy and her husband recently hosted a big sleepover for the grandkids, and the purple couch came in handy!  ”Steve said this is very cozy, and the grandkids think it’s cool.  We had a ball–had a good time.”

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The local chapter of the American Cancer Society is proud to share stories like Nancy’s…and there are so many more amazing stories to tell!

“If you’ve ever heard the words, ‘You have cancer,’ you are a cancer survivor. The American Cancer Society Relay For Life movement celebrates every cancer survivor in every community,” said Kelly Candotti, Corporate Relations for the American Cancer Society. “We’re grateful to Steinhafels for joining with the American Cancer Society to celebrate 1,325 survivors at 40 Relay For Life events this year in southeast Wisconsin.”

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Nancy knows we still have a long way to go in the fight against cancer, but she hopes as her grandchildren get older we get closer and closer to finding a cure, thanks to events like American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.

Nancy gets a little emotional as we finish our conversation, and says simply, ”I’m just blessed I’m here.  That’s all I can say.”

Relay For Life events in Southeastern Wisconsin raised $1,715,299 this year.

See more inspiring Relay For Life pictures HERE!

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