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A dream room come true for an 11-year-old girl battling disorder

From a perch on her high-rise dream bed, Autumn Brantley, 11, surveys her bedroom, made over by the Kiwanis Club of Spring Hill.

Beth N. Gray | Special to the Times

From a perch on her high-rise dream bed, Autumn Brantley, 11, surveys her bedroom, made over by the Kiwanis Club of Spring Hill.

BROOKSVILLE — It was the end of school, so a celebration was in order when 11-year-old Autumn Brantley invited her cousin, Destiny O'Neal, over recently for a sleepover.

And Autumn had — literally — the greatest sleepover room she could imagine.

When the Kiwanis Club of Spring Hill announced plans to install a room all her own, Autumn pulled from her head — and from Internet searches — a bubble-gum-colored enclave featuring a high-rise bed, lots of cupboards and closet space, a place to pursue art endeavors and extra sleeping accommodations for an overnight friend.

The Pleasant Dreams project was envisioned last year by Kiwanis Club president Roseanne Jones, who knew that kids fighting major health issues must spend inordinate amounts of time confined to home.

"Sick kids spend a lot of time in their bedrooms," Jones said. "The idea is to give them a made-over room they can like to live in."

Autumn, who has battled sideroblastic anemia since the age of 3, filled the bill. She had undergone a bone marrow transplant in October 2009. The procedure necessitated chemotherapy, which shut down her immune system, meaning the youngster was susceptible to any germ that came her way.

Autumn had to be kept from places rife with organisms that healthy people can fend off, but that her body could not. Thus, no school classrooms, no shopping among crowds, no restaurants. In fact, food had to be specially prepared.

She stayed at home, except for doctor visits and hospitalizations.

When the Kiwanians told Autumn and her parents, Jaime and Scott Brantley, that they had selected the preteen as recipient for a room of her dreams, the girl "shopped" the Internet. Printing out furnishings and swatches of favorite colors and designs, she drew on her flair for art and composed a collage depicting her dream room.

"She thought of everything," said Jones, who noted she also got a feel for Autumn's personality.

Jones deduced the girl liked bright, cheerful and organized things; animals; the peace symbol; and the color purple.

During the planning process, the Kiwanis Club took into account the need for a healthy environment. For instance, Jones said, carpeting traps airborne germs and allergens, and fabrics absorb spills that provide a breeding ground for microorganisms. Thus, carpeting needed to be replaced with wood or laminate flooring. Wall surfaces needed to be repainted with a washable product. Furnishings needed to be washable.

Jones and her team melded Autumn's wants and needs into available space and came up with a proposed makeover with a price tag of about $1,000. The club sponsored a fundraising dinner, tapped generous local businesses for discounts or donations, then in January descended on the family's modest home off Sunshine Grove Road, west of Brooksville.

"We just about did everything on that collage," Jones said.

And lots more.

"I got the bed I wanted," Autumn said. "I got a chair that turns into a bed. I didn't expect a light, but I got a light."

She referred to a funky gooseneck floor lamp with frosted globes in pinks and purples.

"I didn't expect a mirror," the girl added, "but I got a mirror on the back of the door.

"I knew I wanted blue walls. Then, I like cotton candy, so I thought of these colors that reminded me of cotton candy."

Autumn pointed out the lavender curtains, pinks and purples in the chair/bed, a small area rug, a peace symbol spread on the step-up bed, a puffy pillow in the shape and color of a tropical parrotfish.

Built-in drawers beneath the bed are spacious enough to hold Autumn's drawings. The custom-designed closet behind sliding doors provides lots of shelf space for art supplies, puzzles, games and books. Two levels of hanging racks make a compact space for clothes.

Next month, Autumn will be leaving her room as she checks into All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, where she will prep for a second bone marrow transplant in mid August. The attendant chemotherapy, again disarming her immune system, will require continued hospitalization and residence at the adjacent Ronald McDonald House into October or November.

Jaime Brantley will take a leave of absence from her job at the Wal-Mart Distribution Center in Ridge Manor. Scott Brantley is unemployed, having had to take off time to care for his daughter and later having to sell off equipment from his independent construction business to pay medical bills and family living expenses.

Recognizing the family's continuing economic plight, the Kiwanis Club recently presented the Brantleys with a cash donation.

Recalling Autumn's reaction when shown her room — "You should have seen her face," Jones said — the Kiwanis Club plans to continue with the Pleasant Dreams project.

"We're definitely going to do another," Jones said.

Beth Gray can be contacted at graybethn@earthlink.net.

A dream room come true for an 11-year-old girl battling disorder 06/18/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 6:51pm]

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