Nathan, who is battling Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy, received the Star Wars-themed bedroom of his dreams. (Photos courtesy of The Sweet Dreams Foundation)
Young Nathan is just like most boys his age. He loves Star Wars, his loyal dog Flash, and playing video games in his bedroom. His warm smile lights up a room even as he battles Duchenne's Muscular Dystrophy.
Duchenne's, or DMD for short, is a rare genetic disorder characterized by progressive muscle degeneration and weakness. Nathan’s life-long battle with the disease has left him in a wheelchair but has never dampened his zest for life. In November, a dedicated group of volunteers from The Sweet Dreams Foundation in California got to see Nathan’s bright smile first- hand when they unveiled his brand new, fully- customized Star Wars -themed bedroom.
“It was an incredible experience,” said Sweet Dreams Foundation founder Jennifer Donchenko. “He didn’t know what it would look like while we are creating his dream bedroom. When we brought him in, it was amazing for everyone.”
The Sweet Dreams Foundation is on a mission to improve the quality of life for children diagnosed with a life-threatening disease by creating their dream bedroom. These children often spend hundreds of days in the hospital, away from the comfort of their home.
Donchenko launched the non-profit to create atmospheres that uplift children to help with their healing process. The vision began when Donchenko was 11 years old taking care of her grandfather as he was dying from lung cancer, which sparked an interest in helping those who were seriously ill.
The Sweet Dreams Foundation transforms up to 20 bedrooms a year. The volunteer-based foundation connected with Nathan and his parents, Ruth and Mark, through their local Bayside Church, which has fundraised more than $75,000 throughout the years for the foundation.
The process starts by taking the time to get to know each child’s needs and wants.
“We get to know the child,” Donchenko. “For example, Nathan loves Star Wars. He loves two scenes in Star Wars: The modern Star Wars and the classic Ewok village scene. They are very different. We had to bring those two styles together.”
To make Nathan’s dream bedroom come to life, The Sweet Dreams Foundation had to come up with a creative way to find more space.
“We had a hospital bed for Nathan because he needs something adjustable,” she said. “His mom or dad sleeps in his room with him every single night so we needed a bed for them. The room needed to be wheelchair accessible. That is why we decided on a wall bed so his parents could sleep in it at night and in the morning, when Nathan needed room for his wheelchair, the bed tucked away. It is a great feature to keep the room clean.”
Donchenko started researching Murphy beds and found the perfect fit in Lori Beds. Having used a different brand of Murphy bed in a previous design, Donchenko knew she needed a better alternative that was crafted in American and made of solid wood.
“When I am working on a room I worry about the toxicity in the materials,” she said. “When I came across the Lori Bed online, I loved it because it was high-quality wood, made in the U.S.A and looked easy to install, which it was.”
Traditional Murphy beds use spring or piston mechanisms to lift and lower the bed. These can be cumbersome and difficult to install. The Lori Bed is a mechanism-free solution that can be lifted and lowered by hand using your and your lifting partner's strength.
To make the Lori Bed customized to Nathan’s family, The Sweet Dream Foundation devised and attached a simple piston lifting system to make it even easier for daily use. The team also used bamboo trim to decorate the Lori Bed’s exterior so it fit the Ewok theme.
“The family loves the Lori Bed,” Donchenko said. “They use it every day. The hard part was how heavy it was with a nice mattress on top. We had to make it so it wouldn’t be so heavy to lift and lower. The volunteers developed a system of springs o make it work. We would absolutely use the bed again in another design.”
Nathan’s Lori Bed was custom designed to fit the Star Wars-theme of his dreams.
In the a matter of a couple of days, The Sweet Dreams Foundation completely transformed Nathan’s old cluttered bedroom into a space he could truly enjoy for years to come. Every aspect of the room was created by a team of dedicated volunteers. A local artist painted an Ewok village mural on the walls. Even Flash the dog got special accommodations. The pint-size pup got his own adjustable and portable dog bed that aligns perfectly with Nathan’s bed so the companions can always be close.
Nathan now has plenty of space to play and grow, something Donchenko said couldn't have been achieved without the help of volunteers and sponsors like Lori Beds.
“We are so grateful to Lori Beds for sponsoring Nathan’s room,” she said. “It made it possible for us to stay within budget and provide a place for his parents to sleep every single night while they care for their son.”
Those interested in partnering with Lori Beds on a sponsorship can contact Agueda at firstname.lastname@example.org.