OWASSO — The force awakens every time Braden Swafford rolls out of bed in the morning.
Swafford, 14, sleeps in a room that recently got a “Star Wars”-themed makeover.
The longer you stand and admire the room, the more “goodies” you’ll spot: A stormtrooper helmet appears to be crashing through the wall. A mirror is shaped like the Millennium Falcon. The door of a mini-fridge shows Han Solo trapped in carbonite.
There might not be a cooler bedroom in all of Owasso. And it made Braden’s mother cry — for all the right reasons.
Braden battles cystic fibrosis. He has spent more than his share of days in hospital rooms. It only seems fair that his room should be a feel-good sanctuary. And, thanks to a new nonprofit organization, that’s what it will be.
Rooms With A Heart, launched in 2017, develops and constructs customized rooms for children with critical illnesses.
Braden’s room is the first to be completed by Rooms With A Heart. His mother, Missy, said it’s overwhelming that someone would do this for her son.
“I think he’s special,” she said. “But for someone else, complete strangers, to come out and do something like this and donate their time says he is special to more than just me.”
Rooms With A Heart was founded by Cheryl Snow. She and her husband used to work with a similar-but-nationwide charity when living in Missouri. She saw the impact renovated rooms had on families and, after moving back home to Tulsa, she decided to launch a localized venture.
“That’s kind of my hobby, and I love doing it,” Snow said when asked if renovating rooms for children makes her happy. “I enjoy giving back and meeting families and seeing kids smile when they walk in their room. That makes it all worthwhile.”
Braden vacated his bedroom for a few days and slept on the couch while the facelift was taking place. The “reveal” took place May 5, and “Star Wars”-clad members of the 501st Legion fan organization showed up for the occasion.
Rooms With A Heart beneficiaries choose the theme of their room. When Snow was working with the national charity, she helped with rooms that, for instance, had ice cream, princess and Taylor Swift themes. Snow also said she worked on a hunter-themed room. “That was really fun,” she said. “We brought the outdoors inside.”
In Braden’s case, why “Star Wars”? He said it’s one of his three favorite franchises, along with “Jurassic Park” and the Marvel Universe. (He went to see “Avengers: Infinity War” the day his room was being finished, vacating his home so the Rooms With A Heart folks could wrap up their work.)
Braden said his mother introduced him to “Star Wars.” “That’s why I love it. She showed me the movies, then started buying me the Legos and all that kind of stuff.” He said he has seen all the Star Wars movies. His wardrobe is heavy on Star Wars shirts. His three favorite characters are General Grievous, Count Dooku and Darth Maul. His favorite part of the new room? “I like all of it,” he said. “I don’t have a favorite part.”
Braden, trying to play it cool, intentionally didn’t show much emotion when the room was unveiled, but he later said he feels grateful — and blessed — that he was selected by Rooms With A Heart. Whatever he and his mother were expecting, the room was better than that.
“I cried a few tears,” she said. “I will cry a few more throughout the day, I’m sure. I told them today I look forward to volunteering on a room with them because I want to pay it forward. I think that’s really important.”
Snow said Rooms With A Heart usually tries to raise and budget about $2,500 for rooms. Rooms With A Heart is supported by local and national businesses, corporations and individuals. Supporters generally provide a team of volunteers to help with the decorating and completion of rooms. Celebrity Attractions was the main sponsor for Braden’s room. Other sponsors and a gallery of photos from the makeover can be viewed at roomswithaheart.org.
“Braden, he is a sweet kid,” Snow said. “He is totally awesome and has a great personality and we are just thankful we were able to do his room.”
The renovation included an air purifier for Braden’s health and a large-screen television for gaming and TV-watching. A video of “Star Wars: A Force Awakens” was playing during “reveal” day. Braden has a front-row seat, any time he wants, to a galaxy not so far away.
“I probably won’t see him for a few days,” his mother said. “He is going to be holed up in his room.”
Jimmie Tramel 918-581-8389