Decorating is not typically a popular activity for high schoolers, but Naperville Central student Sam Welch has developed quite a passion for it.
In 2016, through a fundraiser for his leadership program, Welch raised money to decorate the bedroom of a local child named Cody, who had an incurable bone disease. Welch, then a sophomore, helped build and paint furniture, including a bed, desk and decorative scoreboard.
“When Cody opened his door for the ‘reveal,’ everything froze,” Welch says. “I could see him take it all in. His jaw dropped, and our eyes filled.”
Welch saw the makeover’s impact not only on Cody, but on the boy’s family and on the volunteers. “We had given Cody a place where he felt at peace. It was the first time I understood what it was like to be part of something bigger than myself.”
Before witnessing this makeover, Welch didn’t give much thought to a person’s home environment. “I used to think, ‘How much can a room makeover really mean?’ But I’ve learned it’s not just a room. It’s about emotional support and it’s about community.”
Welch wanted to share his experience with others, so he started a Special Spaces club at NCHS. He recruited friends and classmates who could help raise the $4,000 needed to fund each dream makeover, and turned to his family’s network of local contacts.
In the 2017–’18 school year, the club raised $28,000 for Special Spaces Chicagoland (specialspaceschicagoland.org), participated in seven room makeovers and over 17 community events. Welch is quick to point to the numerous local businesses that have sponsored the NCHS Special Spaces Club, including Alarm Detection Systems, Big Frog Custom T-Shirts, Downtown Naperville Alliance, Dutchman Heating and Cooling, the Harris Family Foundation, Klique Creative, Normandy Builders and Susan Joy Instructional Design. Special Spaces also received support from two other NCHS groups: Red Rage and the 2017 Senior Class Council.
“It has amazed me how much I can accomplish when I utilize the resources in my community,” Welch says. “People really want to help however they can. All I had to do was ask.”