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Posted: 9:33 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013

Buford child’s condition spurs ‘sunshine’ makeover



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Buford child’s condition spurs ‘sunshine’ makeover photo
Bob Andres / AJC
Stephanie Self watches her son, Gavin, play in the ball pit in therapy area of their newly finished basement. Stephanie Self and son, Gavin, who suffers from mitochondrial disease, had their home remodeled by Sunshine on a Ranney Day. Holly Ranney, President and Founder, provides “dream room” makeovers for children like Gavin. BOB ANDRES BANDRES@AJC.COM
Buford child’s condition spurs ‘sunshine’ makeover photo
Bob Andres / AJC
Gavin Self plays in the ball pit in therapy area of their newly finished basement. Stephanie Self and son, Gavin, who has mitochondrial disease, had their home remodeled by Sunshine on a Ranney Day. Holly Ranney, President and Founder, provides “dream room” makeovers for children like Gavin. BOB ANDRES BANDRES@AJC.COM
Buford child’s condition spurs ‘sunshine’ makeover photo
Bob Andres / AJC
Stephanie Self (center) and son, Gavin, who suffers from mitochondrial disease, had their home remodeled by Sunshine on a Ranney Day. Holly Ranney (left), President and Founder, provides “dream room” makeovers for children like Gavin. Gavin’s bedroom was decorated with a baseball motif. BOB ANDRES BANDRES@AJC.COM

By Gracie Bonds Staples

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Storm clouds started gathering in little Gavin Self’s life soon after his second birthday when he woke up one night shaking uncontrollably. He would soon lose the use of his legs and endure muscle spasms so severe he’d roll off his bed.

Doctors told his parents, Stephanie and Brad Self of Buford, the toddler had mitochondrial disease and progressive ataxia, and their lives instantly changed.

For the next two years, Brad slept on the living room sofa while Gavin and his older sister, Addison, slept with their mother to ensure he would not fall during the night.

Last September Holly Ranney, president and founder of Sunshine on a Ranney Day, a non-profit that does interior design makeovers for children with long term illnesses, heard about the Selfs.

Her organization wanted to make over 4-year-old Gavin’s room so his parents could reclaim theirs.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Stephanie Self said one morning last week. “Gavin had been sleeping in the bed with me since the diagnosis. It was just the way it was so we didn’t even think about it.”

Ranney, though, knew she could bring sunshine into the Selfs’ home and ease the family’s burden in coping with the toddler’s condition.

The Roswell resident had gone to interior design school. She now works as a buyer for Rooms to Go Kids, so she has plenty furniture samples, art work and other home décor. If she didn’t, she knew how to get it. And her accountant husband, Peter, who grew up working with his father in construction knows his way around a work site.

Ranney met the Selfs, avid University of Alabama fans. She talked to and played with Gavin, who had regained the use of his legs but still has spasms that could be dangerous. Before she knew it a makeover for Gavin had turned into one for the entire family.

Volunteers lined up as word of the project spread.

Debbie Braun, owner of the Goddard School in Crabapple, offered her expertise building sensory integration playrooms.

“It struck a chord with me,” Braun said. “Both my children, age 8 and 12, have sensory processing disorders and I’d already built a SIP room at our school.”

SIP rooms, she said, help children sensitive to their environments feel comfortable in their own spaces and live happier lives. In Gavin’s case, such a room might include certain activities, textures and colors that stimulate his neurological system.

“If we could help with that little piece, I was really excited to be apart of it,” Braun said.

Workers started by finishing the Selfs’ basement, dividing it into three spaces. One side was transformed into a sensory/therapy area for Gavin, complete with a rock climbing wall, ball pit and 3D interactive sensory mural. Opposite that space was a craft area with custom built tables and shelves.

Between the two was Brad Self’s “man room” decorated with an Alabama theme, power reclining theater sitting and flat screen television.

That was just the beginning.

The makeover of upstairs bedrooms started at exactly 7:45 a.m. Jan. 5, and so many volunteers filled the Self’s residence Ranney said that rather than turn them away she suggested they help clean.

They washed baseboards, and ceiling fans and eight loads of laundry. They dusted and organized the kitchen pantry.

“They cleaned this house from top to bottom,” Stephanie said. “When I walked into the house it looked brand new, cleaner than when I bought it.”

While one crew cleaned, the others helped Ranney redo the bedrooms. Gavin’s got his special bed with protective railing and a baseball stadium theme; Addison a princess carriage bed and bedazzled chest.

For their parents: a clean room with fresh flowers, candles and chocolates.

At 4:59 p.m. that day, the volunteers were finished. The Selfs could sleep together without worrying about Gavin.

“We didn’t realize how tired we were until we were able to rest knowing he was safe,” Stephanie said.

The Selfs’ makeover is the seventh Ranney has done since launching the non-profit in July 2011 with $400 from their charity bank account.

Families, she said, are referred to the organization and chosen based on need.

“Once you go into a hospital and see children in a hospital bed, it kinda gets you,” said Ranney explaining her motivation. “Then I heard a church sermon that basically called you to use your resources to help people. We knew we had the resources, so this is our way of giving back.”


Upcoming makeovers:

Karson Parker, 5, son of Brandi and Kristopher Parker of Loganville. Karson has mitochondrial diseases

Tripp Halstead, son Bill and Stacy Halstead of Winder. The toddler was hospitalized last year after being struck by a falling tree branch.

For more information about Sunshine on a Ranney Day or to make a donation, log onto www.sunshineonaranneyday.com. ‘Like’ Sunshine on a Ranney Day’s Facebook page to get daily updates on upcoming makeovers or the children the organization has already helped.

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