Plush bumblebees hang from a 3-D tree in the corner of 13-year-old Josiah Melton’s bedroom. A soft green rug mimics grass, and hand-painted artwork depicts friendly outdoor creatures, including ants and earthworms.
Every detail, down to the handmade bee bedding, was executed in one day by the volunteers of Rooms With A Heart Inc., a Tulsa nonprofit that receives referrals from local hospitals and creates customized rooms for children with critical illnesses.
Josiah was diagnosed shortly after birth with two genetic disorders and global developmental delays. He is non-ambulatory and non-verbal, though he communicates through an electronic device that utilizes pictures and eye gaze. His mother, Olivia Morgan, says some of the conversations they’ve had using the device inspired the outdoor theme for Josiah’s new room. "He tells me he does not like cloudy or rainy days," Olivia explains. "He loves to be at the park and at the swings."
Tulsa Realtor Cheryl Snow founded RWAH in 2017 to support local families and their children. Josiah’s room is the nonprofit’s fourth makeover. "When you see just a glimpse of what these families endure with their child’s illness, the financial strain and the sacrifices they make daily to try to have a normal life," Snow says, "you can’t help but be humbled and want to do whatever it takes to put smiles on their faces, even if it is just for that day."
Josiah’s conditions are extremely rare, so Olivia says RWAH has given her family a voice to raise awareness. More than that, it puts the spotlight on a little boy who, like many children with special needs, is sometimes overlooked or underestimated by the general public.
Olivia says, "It’s a way to show him, ‘We see you and you matter,’ and that is so appreciated."