Shaina knew something was afoot. Her older sisters entertained her in the living room as the special guests arrived. Shaina has sharp hearing, and she picked up our conspirational whispers from the other side of the house. To be fair, she had already cottoned on to the fact that something was up when we wouldn’t allow her into her sensory room for a week.
First, some background on that room. Not long after Shaina’s diagnosis, we decided to convert a spare bedroom into a “sensory” room for her. We installed an occupational therapy swing, some bean bags and a stash of toys. Shaina swings and plays in that room daily, so it was unusual for us to bar her entry.
Instead, strange men and women traipsed in and out of her room. Whatever they were doing there sometimes made lots of noise, prompting Shaina to tightly cover her ears. Something was up, and she knew it. I’m guessing she would have asked us what we were up to if she had the vocab to do so.
Shaina continued singing along with her YouTube playlist as more guests arrived. We shared stomach butterflies with Shaina’s facilitators and the magical team who had made this day happen.
We’d arrived at the grand reveal: Extreme Makeover, Shaina Edition.
The project to totally transform Shaina’s room launched in March this year. Reach for a Dream is an incredible organisation that makes dreams come true for children with dread diseases. We had never thought to approach them for Shaina.
They found us. It’s a beautiful story of pure kindness and the rippling power of a single deed.
The way Reach for a Dream works is they interview a child to hear what their ultimate dream is. Once they’ve crystallised the wish, their team kicks into action to make it happen. Shaina couldn’t describe her dream, so Chloe and Koena from RFAD spent hours learning what brings her joy. They wanted to create something of lasting value and benefit, which sparked their idea to do a room makeover.
Over months, their team visited, measured, suggested, danced with Shaina, selected, contracted, danced with Shaina, purchased and installed- and danced with Shaina. Last Thursday was Reveal Day. Even we weren’t allowed to peek into the room beforehand.
With a professional cameraman on hand (of course), we led Shaina to her new room. She edged the door open and peered inside. The room looked marvellous- a new bed with fluffy cushions, a hammock swing, sensory lamps, a rack of musical instruments, and full-length mirrors. Of course, they had installed Shaina’s name in lights. Shaina was delighted. She didn’t know where to turn first.
To top of her dream day, the organisation flew in Shaina’s favourite singer, Choni G, from Cape Town. As Shaina gazed around her new Wonderland, her ears pricked up at the sound of approaching music. Choni walked in singing her favourite tune- and her joy erupted. He sang with her for well over an hour. Shaina’s eyes glistened with happiness; ours with emotion.
Choni G singing for Shaina brought the story full circle. Choni, you see, is why Reach for a Dream redid Shaina’s room.
In March, after Shaina returned home from hospital, Choni arrived at our house to surprise her with a personal concert. She shrieked and giggled with excitement when she saw him, and then they sang together for ages.
I posted a video of Choni and Shaina on social media, and one of the directors of Reach for a Dream happened to see it. He contacted a mutual friend to arrange to meet us so they could offer Shaina a wish come true. Her dream started with a Choni G kindness concert in our living room and culminated with one in her remodelled room.
Choni had simply wanted to bring happiness to a little girl who hadn’t been well. None of us could have guessed where his gesture of kindness would lead. That’s the Kindness Circle- it starts with each of us and ends up in magical places. You can start a Kindness Circle today- it only takes one gesture.