“I kind of liked the bear up by the TV,” Union College senior Laura Lieberman said, as she picked up a purple Beanie Baby from where it reclined atop the brown and white animal hide print comforter on 17-year-old Sherene Fedor’s bed. She positioned it next to the flat-screen TV on top of the antique white dresser, stepped back, surveyed the lovely room and decided she was pleased with the result.
Lieberman was part of a group that transformed Fedor’s room into a peaceful, pretty place, which will serve as a refuge for the teen as she battles acute lymphocytic leukemia.
The project was a collaboration involving Union College’s Student Leaders In Community Entrepreneurship (SLICE), Albany Medical Center and the nonprofit organization Healing Spaces Inc.
“The mission of Healing Spaces is to bring healing to the home, so we basically just wanted [her bedroom] to be somewhere where she feels comfortable and safe and something that makes her happy, and she’ll look forward to going there,” explained design team member and Union College senior Stacey Burns.
Fedor, who was diagnosed with leukemia in January of 2010, was nominated for the room makeover by Albany Medical Center’s pediatric oncology clinic. Her family was very surprised to find out that she had been chosen.
“It came out of nowhere,” said Fedor’s mom, Missy.
Fedor’s battle with the disease has been quite a journey.
“The first year, she spent like 41⁄2 months total in the hospital, so it’s very intense treatment. We put 12,000 medical miles on the car the first year,” Missy said.
Now that Fedor is spending her nights back in her own bedroom, Missy is sure a peaceful new space will help with her daughter’s recovery.
“They put her on steroids every month, so she deals with being buzzed up on steroids for five days, and then is taken off with no taper, which is not a normal thing, so then there’s irritability and hard sleeping. So they created a calm area for her,” Missy said.
Three weeks ago, the design team came to interview Fedor about what she imagined her dream bedroom would look like. They took measurements, made notes, did all sorts of shopping and scheming, and came back Friday morning to start the renovations.
While the work was in progress, the Fedors stayed free of charge at the Desmond Hotel.
Before the makeover, Fedor’s 13-by-13-foot bedroom was screaming yellow, with bright orange curtains and tattered tan carpeting.
Based on her dreams, a group of about 20 volunteers transformed the room into a peaceful space with ice blue walls and new tan carpeting. There’s a fuzzy, off-white beanbag chair in one corner, a sparkly chandelier hanging from the ceiling, and a smattering of Fedor’s favorite things artfully placed throughout.
The carefully positioned Beanie Baby bear belonged to a child who was in the hospital at the same time Fedor was.
“She had a 5 percent chance of survival, a 95 percent chance of dying, and she survived, and this was with her the entire time. So when she left the hospital, she gave it to Sherene, and Sherene’s had it ever since,” Burns said.
Hanging from the slanted ceiling in Fedor’s closet is a framed cycling jersey worn by an acquaintance who rode in a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society race to raise funds in her name.
On a shelf by her bed is a framed poem written for her by her basketball coach.
The design team used a brown and white animal hide print comforter — something on Fedor’s wish list — as the basis for their design. Their budget consisted of $3,000, which was raised at Union College. With that, along with donations and discounts acquired from area businesses, they were able to paint and carpet the room, and furnish it with a new mattress, box spring, headboard and bedding. They also added new lighting, window shades, a television and a retro desk found at an antique store in Schenectady. Fedor’s dresser, nightstand and mirror were refinished and reused in the room.
Choosing the right design elements took a long time, noted volunteer design team leader Katherine Brickley of KatsEye Design in Schenectady.
“We were very conscious of our choices and it just wasn’t anything. They had to be extra special for her,” she said.
The group had enough money for everything except the all-important animal hide print duvet cover for the bed, but 11-year-old Danny Rosetti of Latham, whose dad, Dan, was the volunteer master contractor for the project, stepped up to the plate and bought one for Fedor with his own money.
The group worked all day Friday and Saturday on the room makeover.
“We had guys out in the garage sanding or priming; we had the girls down[stairs], painting all the pieces,” Brickley detailed.
The rug went in at 9 a.m. Saturday, and the furnishings were arranged shortly thereafter.
At 1 p.m. Sunday, Fedor was called upstairs to see her new room. Design team members were teary-eyed as she walked slowly inside, clutching her black-and-white kitten, Peanut.
“Holy crap! Oh my G)od,” she exclaimed as she took in the pretty blue walls, the new bed, and the artful presentation of her favorite treasures.
“I was not expecting this at all. This is just over the top. It’s amazing,” she said with a smile.