In August 2010, 13-year-old Dawson Faschia was struck with debilitating fatigue while assistant-coaching his brother’s baseball game in Cooperstown N.Y. Tests at a local hospital revealed shockingly low blood counts — shocking considering he’d energetically played hockey, baseball and football just days before.
Within hours, he was flown to the Hospital for Sick Children, had bone marrow testing, and received the diagnosis — Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) — and started on an intensive chemotherapy treatment.
Every child’s dream — especially if you’re a sports fan — is to shoot the puck in a major arena, throw the first pitch, and have your basement turned into a sports man cave. And that’s exactly what Dawson got.
Though designer Jackie Morra’s own child is healthy, she personally faced a life-threatening illness when her best friend’s son was recently diagnosed with leukemia. In the fall of 2011, she was itching to do something to help, so offered her design services (and those of her husband Dan’s) to the Children’s Wish Foundation (www.childrenswish.ca). “We wanted to pay it forward, to see if we could bring some joy and hope to some child’s life.”
Since then, the Morras (jackiemorrainteriors.com) have redecorated three spaces, donating their time and expertise to design, source materials create the room a child wants.
While the first two wishes were for bedrooms, Dawson — sports fan extraordinaire — wished for a sports cave basement. This struck a chord with fellow sports fan Dan Morra, who took up the notion and thought constantly how to make it a reality.
“We always incorporate their needs and wants because we believe kids do better in spaces that reflect who they are and what they love, but also reflect who they wish to be,” Jackie says.
The basement took about two months to plan and source materials. Designing the space was easy for Dan Morra — being a sports fan himself, it’s something he would do in his own home — and he got inspiration from hockey arenas and baseball stadiums. Wanting to recreate the Montreal Canadiens’ locker room, he sourced red benches, actual arena hanging shelves, rink boards, wall padding, and a goal light and horn that is standard equipment for all rinks.
The reveal took place on Family Day, which was Dawson’s 15th birthday. “We wanted it to be extra special, and he’d be home from school with his whole family,” Jackie says.
The day before, she and Dan worked from 11 a.m. to midnight to pull it all together. “To see the look on Dawson’s face was worth all the hard work,” Dan Says. “And then Blue Jays’ pitcher Ricky Romero skyped in to wish him happy birthday and invite the whole family to a game. Dawson was floored when Ricky asked if he’d like to throw the first pitch.”
The extent of the makeover would not have been possible without donations, Morra says. I am absolutely astounded by the response from individuals and organizations. People are hearing about this and they all want to help.”
The huge grey sectional that can accommodate Dawson and several friends was donated by Decorium. Fan Fever donated the goal light, the revolving light and various hockey accessories. The Blue Jays provided jerseys — one signed by Jose Battista, the other by Brett Lawrie — and a baseball signed by the whole team. The NHLPA donated a signed Carey Price Fathead decal and a Rick Nash signed jersey. 2M Sports donated the rink boards, benches and shelving. Fan Fever also sent Dawson and his parents to a Chicago Blackhawks game where he did a puck shoot.
Like other Wish Foundation rooms Morra has done, this one has come in under budget, something that makes her very happy since the money can be used for another child make another wish.
As for Morra, she will move on to her next Wish Foundation room, work on other design projects, and continue to speak at home shows across the country. She now talks not just about design, though, but about giving back, and using your talents to help others.
See the video of the room reveal on You Tube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?