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Joyful Rehab

COD interior design students teamed up with Special Spaces,
helping Emily Beazley feel safe and happy on her road
to good health.

On the morning after cancer survivor Emily Beazley moved into her new bedroom, the 10-year-old Chicago girl told her parents she had the best night’s sleep of her life.

That was music to the ears of Ed and Nadia Beazley, and Emily’s younger sister, Olivia, who had watched Emily battle the most aggressive form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma since her diagnosis in April 2011.

Her newly decorated bedroom and a renovated music room are the result of a project between the College of DuPage Interior Design program and Special Spaces, a national organization that creates dream bedrooms for children with life-threatening diseases. 

Emily associated her old room with being really, really sick, her father said.

“That was where she would lay when she was going through the extremely tough chemo cycles, and there were a lot of days and nights spent crying in her room, not knowing what the future held for her.”

Now that she is almost done with treatment and feeling better, Emily entertains and does her homework in her new room, and lies on her bed and reads or plays with her iPad.

“Emily LOVES her room and enjoys spending time in there thanks to the College of DuPage Interior Design team,” Ed said. “She’s also in the music room throughout the day playing her piano, keyboard and violin. Emily hadn’t touched her violin in a long time until the room makeover.”

The project began when Kelly Knox, Special Spaces Chicagoland director (Naperville affiliate), approached Ann Cotton, College of DuPage coordinator and professor of Interior Design.

Cotton didn’t hesitate.

“We personalized the room as much as possible because Emily deserved something that was bright and welcoming and a personal space that would reflect her determination,” she said.

The group also decided to tackle a second room to give Emily and Olivia an area to enjoy their music. The COD students worked in two teams, each taking on a different room. Team leaders were Paige Ronchetti (Naperville) and Stephanie Michalek (Downers Grove), who worked on the bedroom, and Liz Wensel (Geneva), Nancy Faller (Glen Ellyn) and Tiffany Miller (Wheaton), who worked on the music room.

Cotton and her students met with Emily and her family to see the original rooms. They learned more about Emily and discovered what she wanted, which included a bed that was higher off the ground to allow for underneath storage; a bookshelf and desk; the use of purple, her favorite color; and a theme that included music, specifically the Miley Cyrus song “The Climb.”

Even before Emily was diagnosed, she was a big fan of the Disney show, Hannah Montana, her father said.

“She always loved ‘The Climb,’ but it took on new meaning during her treatment. One day the music therapist came into the room with her guitar. Emily wasn’t feeling good and wasn’t really participating. She was just listening and trying to relax. She asked if the therapist knew ‘The Climb.’ She did, and Emily sang it with her. It was very emotional, and from that point on Emily said it’s her cancer-fighting song.”

Ed said the lyrics fit perfectly with what Emily was going through, and that his daughter compares her fight to climbing a mountain.

“She would say sometimes you’re going to have to lose, like getting her pneumonia. But keep pushing, keep fighting. It’s not just about the destination (the end of treatment), but the journey that makes you strong. Lately, she’s been saying she’s almost at the top of that mountain.”

Ed and Nadia credit the College of DuPage Interior Design students and staff with accomplishing more than just a class project.

“We knew they truly cared about making everything perfect for Emily and Olivia, and you could see that in every detail of the rooms,” Ed said. “This project was done with love. It shows us that there are genuinely nice people out there in this world who are willing to give their valuable time, to touch the lives of strangers and make their lives much better.

“If there is one place in this world a child should feel safe and happy, it’s their bedroom. That is what they have given to Emily.”

For more information about the Interior Design program, call (630) 942-2502 or email For more about Special Spaces, call (312) 343-2032 or email

At top: Emily Beazley and her younger sister, Olivia, react to a new music room in their home, part of a joint project between the College of DuPage Interior Design program and Special Spaces. (photo by Terence Guider-Shaw/special to College of DuPage)


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