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Special Spaces Buffalo: Transforming Children’s Lives, One Bedroom at a Time

Special Spaces of New York (SSNY) is just what its name suggests: special. Special Spaces is a national organization with a mission to create dream bedrooms for children living with cancer. There are 11 chapters around the country, and the Buffalo chapter is the only one in New York at this time. Special Spaces runs solely through volunteers and sponsorships.

Lynn Wall founded the Buffalo chapter of Special Spaces in 2011 after watching the founder of Special Spaces, Jennifer Swain, on The Secret Millionaire. Jennifer and her team had transformed a bedroom into a princess paradise for a little girl in Knoxville, TN. When she saw how much the bedroom makeover impacted the young girl and her family, Lynn knew that she wanted to become part of the incredible organization. Three months later with the help of her friends, Special Spaces Buffalo was born! This November, the Buffalo chapter will celebrate its 10-year anniversary!

The Special Spaces Buffalo (SSB) focuses primarily on bedroom transformations in the Western New York area. Homes in Buffalo, Rochester, and towns in between are most often impacted, with the most recent makeovers taking place in Ransomville, Depew, and Ashville, NY. SSB is currently planning two of their bedroom makeovers and have five total to complete by the end of 2021. There are eight rooms on the 2022 list so far! Buffalo’s 100th Makeover!

In late July 2021, SSB celebrated its 100th makeover. David and Kim Stromecki sponsored the makeover in memory of their son, Ben, who passed away of cancer. Ben had experienced his own room makeover a few years before, and the Stromecki family was extremely grateful for Special Spaces and its impact on their family.

How Does the Makeover Process Work?

SSB has a team of six volunteer interior designers who take turns based on availability and location, and makeovers typically take place on the weekends. Hospitals throughout Western New York send referrals for children who are eligible for a bedroom makeover. To be eligible, the child must be between the ages of two and 19 and be within one year of cancer treatment.

When a child is chosen for a bedroom makeover, a designer is assigned to them. They meet with the family and the child to get an idea of what they’d like their bedroom to look like. The child offers details such as their favorite colors and themes, and the designer takes pictures of the current bedroom as well as measurements. After this, the child and their family won’t know what it’ll look like until the makeover is complete, making each Special Space a complete surprise!

It takes about six to eight weeks for a volunteer team to figure out the design of a bedroom and all of its moving parts. Length of time is dependent on donations for furniture and other items. Finally, the physical transformation process takes about 24 hours and 20 volunteers. SSB obtains donations so the child and their family can stay in a hotel and have a fun-filled day while the renovations take place. SSB averages one makeover per month.

Finding Volunteers & Sponsors

Dependent on volunteers and sponsors, SSB has around 100 volunteers who help with designing, building, sewing, and creating murals. General volunteers help with fundraisers, cleaning, making beds, and more. SSB mainly finds volunteers through social media. Their Facebook page draws attention from its heartwarming videos of children seeing their transformed bedrooms for the first time. Social media also helps draw sponsors. Each room costs about $4,000 to complete. Generally, corporations, schools, and families make up the vast majority of the sponsorships SSB obtains.

Lynn points out that a few sponsors help nearly every year. Berardi Immigration Law in Buffalo has been a sponsor the last five years. Ashley HomeStore has been very generous, donating the majority of the bedroom furniture used in makeovers for the past seven years. The Elmezzi Foundation out of New York City donates nearly every year, and the Jim Harszlak Foundation will be sponsoring an upcoming bedroom makeover in the fall. Jim Harszlak’s wife, Sue, started the foundation after Jim passed away from cancer about 10 years ago.

Inspiration In Buffalo

Lynn Wall has lived in Western NY throughout her life, and sadly, Buffalo has a need for the bedroom transformations that SSB provides. This is evidenced by the children treated by John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital and Roswell Cancer Center. Yet Buffalo rises to the occasion with no shortage of volunteers and help in support of SSB. Lynn truly believes that Buffalo deserves its nickname “city of good neighbors.”



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