To me, Zack’s Dream Room represented a place of beauty and inspiration. A place to not only honour our son, but those children like him.
It is a place where the nurses who cared for Zack can remember him, smile and tell his story. It’s a place where Elmo lives so he can bring a smile to the parents and children within the walls.
It is a place that represents the life of our son, a character that meant so much to him and to us and our way of giving back to a place that helped us care for him.
Most importantly, it is a place that through the journey to make it happen, I found a way to grieve. A way to still be Zack’s mother and a way to share my sweet boy with the world.
The journey to Zack’s Dream Room started with a simple call a short week after Zack’s funeral. Our friend Sue, the clerk on the pediatric floor, told me about the upcoming refurbishing project and that we should do an Elmo room for Zack.
Within another week, our new mission had a goal, a name, a website and I had a new role- Chief Dream Fulfiller.
Another month went by and plans were made for fundraisers at Lionel’s Farm and at playgrounds organized by my online friends. There were articles, Facebook pages, Twitter handles and even a CBC News interview on Mother’s Day. Zack’s Dream Room began to grow – take over our lives in a beautiful but organic way- with our story being told online and in the media.
With Elmo by our side and Zack’s strong spirit, the magic continued to happen as our goal got within our reach and Sesame Street hear about Zackie. Connie, the director of the incredible BeingElmo documentary, reached out to me and soon after she made sure that Kevin Clash knew about Zack and about his Dream Room. After a call from Sesame’s VP of Communications, I knew that this journey was being propelled by my amazing son- an angel of wills- bringing us such comfort while we continued to grieve his loss.
Speaking engagements in Ontario and NYC, Canada Am interviews, local newspaper articles, trips to Sesame Place, LinkedIN conference (Paul was amazing! He had the 2500 people in the audience, in tears) and fundraising events filled our calendar with even more excitement as we actually reached the $25,000 goal! Our hearts were full knowing that our son’s story had inspired friends, family and even strangers to give what they could to make this dream come true.
We had a decision to make– do we stop with one room funded and some added funds to help with other hospital projects or do we keep going to fund two rooms for pediatrics? The answer was clear- there was more to do.
One of the sweetest memories was the late night delivery of a DVD with a message from Elmo…fulfilling the promises I had made to Zackie- Elmo said his name. I was able to share this amazing and emotional video with our friends and family at our biggest and most incredible event, the “Being Elmo” screening for Zack. Surrounded by supportive friends, family and sponsors, we realized that not only was this the best event and most meaningful to us, it was also clearly the end of the journey and the end of our official fundraising events. It was time to focus on rebuilding our family, spend more time with Ty and Jayden, find our new normal and allow ourselves to grieve privately.
Finally, it came time to create this incredible room and we were fortunate to have friends and designers who could transform the room into a place of healing, colour and Zack’s spirit. After those two days in the room, the longest I stayed there without caring for my sweet son, I was overwhelmed with emotion.
We have left a legacy for Zack. A story to tell the children who stay there- about a fighter, a child with incredible spirit and a love for all things Elmo. We helped to find an amazing artist to help to transform the other 4 rooms, so that they too will have a beautiful mural to wake up to.
This week, with a small and special gathering of friends and family, we unveiled the plaque on the outside of the two rooms which we have funded, together with our supporters. As I unveiled the plaque on the wall, I was overwhelmed with the emotions of the year and half that got us to that sign. I saw my son’s name, our project together, on the wall for everyone to see. I was able to speak to the hospital foundation team, staff and other donors to share with them the power in this pediatric project and what it has meant to me as a grieving mom. I didn’t realize that because of our story, our passion and our determination, we had inspired the other 4 donors to fund the remaining rooms.
The impact of Zack’s message has touched so many people and with only 3 years on this earth, he has made a difference to so many. Zack will be remembered by strangers for his love of Elmo and the power of his spirit.
Building Zack’s Dream Room and the experience of sharing his story has changed me forever, without a doubt. The friends we have made throughout this journey will forever be in our hearts. We are so grateful for the love and support that helped make this incredible dream come true. You have all helped us grieve, helped us move forward and help us honour our son’s short but amazing life.