When Kurt and Kate first approached Make-A-Wish to grant a wish for their son, Luke, they faced a challenging situation. Luke – who is visually, auditorily and linguistically impaired as a result of a genetic disorder – could not directly make the wish himself. To some, the task of coming up with a meaningful, purposeful wish on Luke’s behalf might have been daunting; to the family and Make-A-Wish volunteers, it was an opportunity to be resourceful and create a wish that would keep on giving.
“Luke’s level of disability is pretty severe,” explained Kate. “Something like a trip, while very generous, would be tough because Luke is wheelchair bound. So we started brainstorming with the Make-A-Wish folks to come up with something that would benefit Luke on a different level.”
With the help of a talented and eager team that included Luke’s doctors, a renowned pediatric occupational therapist, a gifted architect, and a compassionate group of volunteers to donate time and money to put the plan into action, Luke received an entire room devoted to sensory therapy.
Peter Schwartz of Vessel Architecture and Design had never been involved in a project of this nature but knew that he couldn’t wait to rise to the occasion. After extensive meetings with Kurt and Kate, as well as Carrie Salyer, an occupational therapist at Leaps and Bounds, plans for Luke’s sensory room took shape.
“This project needed a handful of unique players in order to really design a room like this,” said Peter. “My role as an architect was to map out the path from the beginning to a successful conclusion using Carrie’s suggestions for sensory tools that would not only entertain Luke, but also help him learn and grow.”
The end result exceeded every expectation: fiber optic lights in the ceiling, a sensory board with different textures for Luke to touch and feel, a voice-activated light box with soothing colors, an echo chamber, a rocket ship motif, soft mat puzzle pieces for the floor, and even a ball pit. Together, they formed what Kate calls “the best thing that has ever happened to Luke.” Today, he continues to do well and enjoy the room every day.
“We all adored Luke from the minute we met him, and I know I speak for all of us involved in this wish when I say that we all had concerns as to whether Luke would really benefit from the sensory room,” said Stephanie Hampton-Boeglin, director of Mission Delivery at Make-A-Wish Missouri. “But when Luke first saw his room, his face just lit up with pure joy – there wasn’t a dry eye in the room! All of us involved in this wish walked into the project as strangers and left as family. It was truly a community effort and a wonderful experience.”
Luke found a nice, comfortable spot.