Helping Pediatric Cancer Patients, One Bedroom at a Time

The Big Reveal brought home special meaning to Saint Viator students Emily Lang ’23 and Andrea Rivera ’24. They had been working since last summer to raise enough money to do a bedroom makeover for a young cancer patient around their own age.

They wound up providing 14-year-old Justise with a brand new bedroom, and as it turned out, her mother Sandra as well. Justise lost her father during COVID, and she was diagnosed with leukemia in 2022.
Consequently, when the big reveal took place Oct. 28, the emotions were powerful.

“Seeing Justise and her mother’s reactions and surprise of the makeover was beyond memorable,” Andrea said. “Knowing the amount of challenges Justise and her mother had faced in the past years with the loss of her father while battling her sickness gave this project a greater purpose and passion.”

Emily agreed, adding: “watching Sandra and Justise’s faces light up with joy was such a rewarding way to end our day of hard work.”

They were following the lead set by Mia Parise ’22, who had partnered with Special Spaces Illinois, a nonprofit organization whose goal is to provide a safe place for children with cancer to recover, heal, sleep and play.

“Mia's goal was for this to not be a one and done project for Saint Viator,” says Mr. Joe Miller, a math teacher who helped out with both makeovers. “Emily and Andrea's efforts have kept that dream alive and impacted another young life struggling through cancer treatments.”

The girls worked with Mrs. Ann Perez in Campus Ministry to help with their fundraising – they needed to raise $5,000 to cover the costs – and heightening awareness of Special Spaces and its mission.
“We were able to create a dress down day using each student's donations,” Andrea explains, “and announced the project’s details through announcements in the morning and by speaking at an all-school Mass.”

As part of the process, the girls met with Justise and her mother, and got a sense of their interests, style and dreams for their bedrooms. Their fundraising dollars paid for the various elements of both rooms. 

On the day of the decorating, Saint Viator students provided painting, assembly, steaming, staging, installing, organizing, and cleaning of the rooms.

Their hard work made a difference. 

"We cannot thank you enough for the makeover,” Justise’s mother, Sandra, said. “I haven't seen a smile on Justice's face like that in years. We really really, really love our rooms. Our rooms fit our personalities perfectly.” 

Saint Viator High School

Located in Arlington Heights, IL, Saint Viator High School is a private, co-ed, Catholic school for grades 9-12. Students benefit from a challenging academic program, fine and performing arts, competitive athletics, and a wide selection of extracurricular activities.