My Happy Place to make over bedroom of Charles City teen with multiple medical conditions
By James Grob, email@example.com
Shelby Field, age 15, has struggled through difficult circumstances for much of her life, but she has endured.
Now, thanks to the My Happy Place organization, Shelby gets something positive that she can call her own.
“We are so thankful that we can do something special for her,” said Shelby’s mother, Laurie Field, who is principal at Immaculate Conception School in Charles City. “She has a lot of strength, and has always dealt with her condition with dignity, and has always been respectful of others along the way. It’s so nice that we can do something for her.”
Shelby, who suffers from both Type 1 diabetes and ulcerative colitis, has been selected to have a bedroom makeover by the My Happy Place organization, based in Mason City. Shelby has been told that the theme of the room will include natural, calming colors, in an attempt to make her room a place for peaceful escape. She will get to see the results of the redesigned bedroom today (Friday), when the “big reveal” is scheduled for about 5 p.m.
“I’m very excited,” Shelby said. “I feel really blessed that they are doing this for me. I know there are other people out there who could use it.”
Shelby was diagnosed with diabetes in 2012 and UC in 2018. Both conditions require special diets, and UC requires working with a variety of medicines that can cause side effects that can impact the diabetes, among other things.
Shelby wears an insulin pump, a constant glucose monitor, counts her carbs at meals, takes oral medication to manage her UC, and tries to maintain being active. She visits her doctors in Iowa City every three months to manage both the diabetes and UC.
“She struggles a lot, with all the work it takes to manage the diabetes and the UC,” said Laurie. “It will be good for Shelby to have a place where she has an opportunity to take a rest, and to have some time to think about it and regain some strength.”
On top of her chronic medical conditions, Shelby has endured two life-altering events in her young life. At the age of 1, she lost her dad to brain cancer. Her grandparents were a key role in helping Shelby and her two older sisters, Allyson and Kylie, heal and continue to live their lives. Shelby was close to her grandma and would take any chance she could to spend time with her.
Shelby’s grandma, Nancy Johnson, was diagnosed with ALS in 2019 and passed away this past December.
“Shelby and her grandma had a special bond,” Laurie said. “She was always active in Shelby’s life and was always a part of her medical appointments, and was kind of like a second mom to her. Her grandparents have always been there to emotionally support her.”
My Happy Place offers bedroom makeovers for children diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions.
The community-based, non-profit organization focuses on the emotional well-being and health of children, under the age of 18, who are effected by illness, disease, or emotional distress, to include grief-stricken children suffering from the loss of a parent or sibling.
According to the group’s co-founder, Lisa Tan of Mason City, My Happy Place has served more than 60 children just in Iowa. It covers a 30-mile radius from Mason City, and the organization has quickly expanded, as it now has six affiliates in four other states, including Idaho, Maine, Colorado and South Dakota. The organization serves children with chronic or acute conditions — any medical conditions that could be fatal if left untreated.
A sister organization, Called My Happy Haven, provides bedroom makeovers for women with cancer.
The organization consists of volunteers dedicated to making a real difference in the life of a sick child and his or her family and providing them “with a fun, safe and therapeutic environment where they can thrive and heal.”
The organization works closely with the child and their family to design, redecorate and personalize a bedroom within the family’s home, filling the space with items that are meaningful to the child and in a theme and colors of their choosing.
Tan said that she believes that there should be a My Happy Place in every community nationwide, and that’s where the organization is focusing its expansion.
“We’ve done the work, we can get an affiliate lined up and started, we can get them going,” Tan said. “We want to make it easy for anyone to get started and pick up a paint brush and get to work.”
She encouraged people in the Charles City area to nominate children who might qualify for a bedroom makeover.
“If people know of a candidate, please nominate them,” she said. “They can go to our website and fill out the form right there online.”
Tan said the organization is always looking for sponsors willing to put up the money for the projects.
“When you’re a sponsor, you can help with the room and you’re always invited to the big reveal,” Tan said. “The sponsors always know exactly where their money is going.”
The Foster & Evelyn Barkema Charitable Trust is credited as the sponsor making Shelby’s bedroom makeover possible.
Shelby said she enjoys playing with her dog, Duke, teasing her grandpa, art, music and spending time with her family. In school, she is interested in golf and said she likes hands-on subjects, like woodworking and welding.
“Every day is a struggle, but you just keep going, and you get through it,” Shelby said.
According to Laurie, being chosen by My Happy Place is a humbling experience for Shelby. She said that Shelby has always been taught that she can handle what she has been given and there are many people bearing their own crosses.
“This opportunity for her to have a moment to acknowledge that she has struggles and they affect her every day gives her the perspective to know she can continue to handle them,” Laurie said. “This will help her to continue to shine in strength and resilience.”
Field said she has followed My Happy Place on Facebook and has seen some of the young people they’d designed rooms for and she was impressed.
“We never wanted her medical conditions to be a big issue, although they are,” Field said. “This kind of gives Shelby an opportunity to tell herself that it’s OK.”