Charity brings sunshine into lives of special-needs children

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

On a Sunday morning in 2012, Holly and Peter Ranney heard a church sermon that would change their lives and the lives of hundreds of Atlanta’s special-needs children.

Both were in good corporate jobs. Holly was a buyer for furniture giant Rooms to Go, and Peter was an accountant with a history in construction. And both felt the preacher was speaking to them with his call for the faithful to use their networks of resources to help others.

In the decade since, the two have been using their talents and contacts to reimagine and build custom rooms for 165 children with lifelong illnesses and physical challenges.

With support from big and small corporate partners across metro Atlanta, their nonprofit, Sunshine on a Ranney Day, has given these children dream bedrooms and wheelchair-accessible bathroom renovations that make life easier for them and their families. The renovations – which are done at no cost to the families – are considered game-changing, and the makeover reveals are hugely uplifting, not just to the thrilled recipients and their grateful parents but also to their communities.

The impact of the makeovers was obvious from the very first reveal, Holly said.

“It really felt like this was something we were supposed to be doing,” she said.

In late 2013, the daycare chain Kids ‘R’ Kids – supportive of the Ranneys’ mission and impact – surprised them with a $50,000 donation. Soon after, Holly left her corporate job to devote full-time to the makeovers. Peter followed in 2015.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

Arguably the biggest and best-known of their projects is the top-to-bottom house makeover for the family of Tripp Halstead in 2013. A year earlier, then 2-year-old Tripp was struck by a large limb that fell from a tree outside his Winder daycare center, crushing his skull. He was left paralyzed and unable to speak and died five years later. About 1.2 million people watched his home makeover via live-streaming in 2013, Holly said.

Most of the makeovers draw large, in-person crowds, and the excitement they generate is palpable. Braxton Munkel, 13, of Alpharetta, and his family are anxiously awaiting their reveal on Dec. 16.

Mom Kelli Munkel expects it to be a game-changer for Braxton, who was born with spina bifida. He’s getting a total bedroom and bathroom makeover. Currently, for safety’s sake, he uses his parents’ bathroom to shower. His new bathroom will be wheelchair accessible and will give him the independence that a teen needs, his mother said.

Braxton is the athlete in the family – playing wheelchair basketball and track. The designers sought his input on the makeover, and he’s hoping his bedroom redo will pay homage to his love of LEGOs.

“I’m just really excited to see what it’s going to be like,” he said. “I’m just really happy I was chosen.”

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Currently, to qualify for a makeover, families must own their own home and live within 60 miles of Roswell, where Sunshine on a Ranney Day is headquartered, said Joe Lane, the organization’s executive director.

But the nonprofit is hoping to expand its geographic reach, starting with a makeover soon in Warner Robins in Middle Georgia, said Holly.

“I don’t think people realize how much need there is,” she said. “We get hundreds of applications every year.”

Applications are accepted two times a year. A third-party selection committee, including some of their partners in design and construction, reviews each application and chooses the requests to fulfill, Lane said.

Each makeover – furniture included – typically costs $20,000 to $50,000. Those expenses are funded through donations from businesses, individuals and foundations, he said.

About 1,700 children have been helped by the nonprofit when its once-a-year, large community projects are taken into consideration, Lane said.

The nonprofit has six paid employees – the Ranneys, Lane, and an all-female, three-member construction team. Operating expenses, including salaries, are largely funded through the sale of designer home goods at the furniture store Sunny and Ranney, which the nonprofit opened in Roswell in 2020.

Gabrielle “Gabby” Shropshire and her parents, Kenneth and Gail Shropshire, still remember how life changed after Sunshine gave Gabby a “luxurious” suite with a bedroom, her own lounge, and a wheelchair-accessible bathroom in 2019. Gabby, who is now 17, has the neurological disorder muscular spasticity.

“They did a top-quality job,” Gail Shropshire said. “And all the people they sent out, you could tell they were doing it from the heart. We were very pleased.”

Holly said families’ reactions to the reveals are amazing and keep them going.

“It’s the best life ever,” she said.

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com


MORE DETAILS

Learn more about Sunshine on a Ranney Day at sunshineonaranneyday.com.