As the Roberts family opened each door to newly remodeled rooms in their Channahon home, each looked with amazement, jaws dropped and eyes wide as they overflowed with gratitude for the gift given to them by Morris non-profit Team Make a Difference.
“Where are we? This doesn’t look like our home,” mother Lisa Roberts said.
On June 30, TMaD, revealed a home makeover to the Roberts family of Channahon, which began on June 27. The organization was created by Audra Crowther when she designed a space for a friend who battled an illness. Years later, the team has completed 11 makeovers of various magnitudes. It's their goal to create spaces for people to heal.
The mission of TMaD is “To grant someone in need, in our own community, a place of serenity to rest comfortably, heal and restore hope. It is our goal to make a difference in their life as well as make a difference in the loves of their loved ones. When their body and spirit are healed, our wish is to have inspired them to one day pay it forward by helping someone else in need.”
In 2017, Brody was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at the age of nine. Four days after his diagnosis he was transferred from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. He travels to Peoria every week and then back to St. Jude monthly, with treatments to finish August of 2020.
Last year, the Roberts family, including mom Lisa, dad Ryan, daughter Sydney and son Brody, were mentioned to Crowther and her team of volunteers, but unfortunately the timing wasn't right. So, when the family came up again this year, Crowther said, everything fell into place.
“Brody and his family are loved by so many, and we are excited to give him and his family something positive to look forward to that will affect them on a daily basis,” she said. “Also, this is our first time working in Channahon and we are so excited to make a difference here.”
The family already made certain upgrades to the home to ensure better water quality and sanitizing procedures, but that was as far as they could go.
“Depending on what chemotherapy his is receiving that week, Brody has severe nausea or pain most days," his mom Lisa said. "We start our days figuring out the best medications to give him in order to alleviate his symptoms and try to give him a little normalcy.”
On the main floor of the home, the team wanted to revamp the former dining room space Brody now uses as a space to rest and recover, where he can keep safe from germs in the house. Since he had shown his dedication as a Chicago Cub’s fan, the room was decorated to pay homage to his favorite team.
Everything in the room is brand new, including the couch that pulls in to a bed, an armoire, a popcorn machine, a mini fridge, a TV and gaming system, and several Cubs signs and wall hangings. A unique wooden Cubs cover to hide the wall mounted hand sanitizer was also secured into place.
“That was probably my favorite part, it was just so cool,” Brody said of his new space.
Sydney was told to close her eyes as the family made their way to the basement to reveal her new space to share with friends, which Lisa had already started to remodel.
“Oh my gosh, this looks so much better. Mom tried to do this herself. Oh my gosh, you painted the ugly bathroom,” Sydney said of her basement remodel.
Upstairs, three rooms were stripped down and brought back to life. The old nursery had bunnies on the walls and a small twin bed for when the relatives would come to visit to help out the family. A Murphy bed was added to the space, as well as an armoire and desk to allow it to also be used as a craft room.
Sydney’s room was made over as well. Crowther noted that while siblings may not have an illness, they too feel the effects of a situation like the one facing Brody. Sometimes, the needs of those children can fall to the side. In Sydney's room, black and white pictures of friends and family were hung on new wood walls, and even a swing was added. New furniture finished off the room, complete with fluffy throw pillows.
Brody was given a new adjustable bed, which Lisa said was a blessing because he often has bouts with pneumonia and needs to be propped up. Also added were a new air purifier, other bedroom furniture, and a TV.
“This experience was so amazing. It’s hard to put into words how grateful, humbled and honored we were to be a part of something so huge,” Lisa said. “Cancer has brought so much pain, fear and sadness into our lives, but the amazing people we’ve met with Team Make a Difference have shown us how much hope, support and love there is in this community. Honestly, we are beyond blessed.”