Living in and out of hospitals, being poked and prodded daily by doctors is the reality for some children. UCF students are doing what they can to give these young cancer patients the bedroom of their dreams.
Through the My Room program with Kids Beating Cancer, an organization that focuses on child cancer patients in the Central Florida community, volunteers work to revamp hospital rooms at the Florida Hospital for Children with personalized decorations based on each child's interests.
"It's really important that the kids have their own room personalized," said Marcos Tejeda, a junior accounting major. "It provides a sense of comfort when you're going through something as difficult as cancer."
Kids Beating Cancer administrator Cecelia Marshall said the My Room program has decorated rooms with themes ranging from Minnie Mouse and Mickey Mouse to SpongeBob, the Avengers and Disney princesses. The children get to take the decorations and bedding with them when they are released back to their homes.
Through Kids Beating Cancer, the My Room program has partnered with the UCF Cornerstone: Professional Skills for Business class since 2012 to help support children in Central Florida who will be in hospital rooms for 90 days or more for transplants, surgeries and recovery.
Marshall said it takes a community to raise funds for the Kids Beating Cancer programs, such as the My Room program. The organization, therefore, relies on the Cornerstone class and local businesses.
"It helps the students learn how hard it is to be involved with a nonprofit and what it takes," Marshall said.
The seven UCF students call their fundraising project "The Little Wishes Project," and have raised more than $500 of their $1,000 to $2,000 goal for the semester.
Some of the group members chose this topic because they have a personal connection to cancer.
Tejeda's half-brother, 14, lost his mother to breast cancer on Jan. 18, which was the main reason Tejeda said he chose this topic.
David Freund, a junior marketing major, has an older sister who is going through chemotherapy for breast cancer, which she was diagnosed with five years ago at age 40.
Christiane Tome, a sophomore business major who is a transfer student from Brazil, has a friend whose sister had breast cancer. Tome said knowing her story makes being involved in this cause very important to her.
The members of The Little Wishes Project are each responsible for a specific fundraising project during the semester.
Tejeda looked outside the box for his idea. He wants the group to be gas attendants for a day at a local gas station. They would pump people's gas and work off the tips they receive to donate to the My Room program.
"The good thing about a gas station is that everyone goes there," Tejeda said. "Even if only half donate, it'll still raising money."
Tome graduated from a culinary school in Brazil, which inspired her to host a bake sale for her fundraising project, and she is currently planning the event for March.
The group went into the project thinking that they would use the funds they raise to pick out specific decorations for the children and get the opportunity to decorate the room themselves. However, Marshall said that most of the children are compromised, meaning a limited number of people can visit them. She said that parents usually decorate the rooms for their kids.
"I know in the future we will be helping someone, so that makes me glad," Tome said.
Tome said she would love to volunteer with the hospital in order to be more involved with the children in the future.
Through The Little Wishes Project, these seven students are "granting wishes one room at a time."
Editor's Note: This article was originally published February 25, 2015.
Paige Wilson is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @paigeshortstackor email her at PaigeW@CentralFloridaFuture.com.