For many, a childhood bedroom evokes a sense of comfort, fantasy and fun. It is a child’s domain, a place of escapism to play and create. Savvy Giving by Design was founded to provide such spaces to children undergoing medical difficulties. Run by interior designers, the nonprofit aims to create these dream bedrooms at no cost to families.
The original chapter of Savvy Giving began in San Diego. Its first affiliate chapter was founded in Mobile in 2017 by Caitlyn Waite, owner of local interior design firm Cait Waite Designs. Waite discovered Savvy Giving through an interview with founder Susan Wintersteen. The organization’s mission hit close to home.
“I lost my mom to stomach cancer when I was 16,” Waite says, “and I felt like in that moment, when I learned about Savvy Giving, God was giving me an opportunity to combine my love of interiors with my desire to carry on my mom’s legacy of helping others and to honor her in doing so.”
Savvy Giving aims to complete three rooms a year and relies on donations and fundraising to do so, a process that has been significantly more difficult after COVID. But the need is ever-present; children with severe medical needs often spend long periods of time confined to their homes, so it’s important to make their space as bright, happy and accessible as possible.
“We are so blessed to have been selected to have the boys’ rooms redone,” says Irvington resident Alex Williams, mom of two room recipients, Noah and Caleb. “When we first met Caitlyn and the Savvy Giving by Design team, we admired their passion to create a space that incorporated everything that the children love.”
Noah loves color, so Savvy Giving incorporated as many in his room as possible while keeping it clean and simple. The reds and blues complement each other, and the hexagonal wall shelves are a fun and functional display for Noah’s toys. The stop sign pillow and shark bedding cleverly combine Noah’s favorites: school buses and hammerhead sharks.
Before construction, Waite has the recipient describe their wildest dreams for their new rooms. Some of the kids’ combinations of interests have made for a challenge, such as Noah’s love for hammerhead sharks and school buses.
“We were cautiously optimistic that we could pull it off,” Waite laughs. “We used a lot of bright, happy colors and found a precious pillow in the shape of a stop sign. We used a toy school bus on a shelf and found some fun shark bedding and a shark chair.”
When transforming a room, Waite balances fun and creativity with functional design aspects that make life easier for the children and their families. Carpet is typically removed, if the family allows, since it holds allergens, and specialized furniture is installed to fit each child’s needs.
“Caleb’s bed was designed to have a side rail that drops down or can be raised and locked to provide him with a safe place to sleep, an area allowing for us to change him and provide ease of transfer to his wheelchair,” Williams says.
Each design needs a starting point. It may be a pillow fabric, a piece of artwork or some great wallpaper. Once that is chosen, the rest of the room follows suit. The white dresser brings a stunning contrast to the room. The rocket lampstand is a cute and creative way to continue the theme. The planet painting gathers the design elements from every corner of the room and displays them all together in one picture.
Each room needs one focal wall to add “wow.” The stars on this accent wall continue the outer space theme while simultaneously brightening the wall color. The red curtain trim also adds a splash of color to the night sky. Caleb’s bed is designed with a moveable side rail to keep him sleeping safely.
Savvy Giving also works with subcontractors to make the rooms perfect. Months of preparation ensure that the organization is only working in the families’ homes for one week.
The nonprofit doesn’t stop its mission with rooms for kids suffering from illness. Embodying the true meaning of “giving,” they go one step further and redesign their siblings’ rooms as well.
“When a sibling is sick, it is very common that the other siblings take a backseat for a little bit while parents navigate the families’ ‘new normal,’” Waite says. “Savvy Giving offers the parents one less thing to worry about.”
The look of surprise and excitement on the faces of children and their families when they see their new room is all the payment Waite and her team need.
“This has been an overwhelming experience for us that has been so hard to put into words,” Williams says. “It is so relieving to me at the end of the day that my boys have a safe place that brings them joy to decompress and heal.”