ELYRIA — Earlier this month, 160 women gathered at the Spitzer Conference Center on Lorain County Community College’s campus for the first Special Spaces Cleveland Holiday High Tea.
The high tea part was familiar — finger sandwiches, scones, clotted cream and pastries.
But the purpose was something quite different.
The nonprofit Special Spaces was raising funds for its mission, creating dream bedroom makeovers for children with life-threatening illnesses.
The national organization, which started in 2004 in Tennessee, has more than 20 chapters across the United States, including the Cleveland chapter.
“Special Spaces helps remake bedrooms for children who are critically ill,” said volunteer Dianne Harkin.
The room makeovers are for children ages 3 to 19 with life-threatening illnesses, limited to cancer, organ transplants, life-threatening heart conditions and brain tumors.
The Holiday High Tea raised more than $10,000. Room makeovers range in price between $4,000 and $6,500.
In addition to the high tea, the event offered basket raffles, a 50/50 raffle, a bracelet drawing and a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Harkin, along with six other women from Avenbury Lakes in Avon, worked to put on the Lorain County tea, which was attended by the directors of Special Spaces Columbus and directors from the Midwest, along with Shari Caruso, director of Special Spaces Cleveland.
“(Caruso) spends a lot of time public speaking at churches, clubs, rotary, wherever possible,” Harkin said.
The local group, which serves Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain and Medina counties, is about a year old.
Caruso said all requests for makeovers go to the organization’s national headquarters. “Requests to be considered start with paperwork, which can be found at special spaces.org.
“They meet every Friday to go over the requests, and if one is from our area they notify the director and we schedule a home visit.”
Caruso conducts the home visits. She said the requests are as different as the applicants. “We are planning a makeover next month for a 17-year-old from Solon named Seth. “He told us that he wants a room that is spa-like. A place that is tranquil and serene where he can ‘just chill.’”
The range in cost of a makeover can depend on furniture designed to take into account a particular illness.
Planning for next year’s high tea already is underway. The event will take place Dec. 3 at the Spitzer Conference Center. Tickets will go on sale in late September or early October.
“Other charities take care of terminally ill children,” Harkin said. “The children we serve, with cancer and other diseases, may be with them their whole lives. The bedroom is where they spend all of their time. It’s a very, very important part of their life.
“If a girl likes mermaids, the flooring, furniture, walls, bedding and decorations will reflect that theme,” Harkin said.
This year, eight children received a makeover from the Cleveland group.
To donate for makeovers scheduled for 2019, visit Special Spaces Cleveland on Facebook or call (440) 213-7574. Other Ohio chapters can be found at specialspaces.org/ ohio-chapters/.