This is a story about what can happen when a community comes together to help a family that is facing challenges beyond anything they ever imagined….
Let us introduce you to Shanna Leavitt and her two daughters, Kadence and Addison.
In May of 2015, life threw them a curveball. Both girls were diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder known as Friedrich’s Ataxia (FA). FA is a genetic disease causing progressive damage to the nervous system. It leads to impaired muscle coordination that worsens over time. Additional symptoms and side-affects include: heart conditions such as cardiomyopathy, type 2 diabetes, speech problems, and vision impairment, and eventually leads to wheelchair dependency. It affects only 1 in 50,000. Worst of all, there is no cure.
Suddenly their days were filled with therapies of all kinds – eye therapy, physiotherapy, myofascial therapy (for swallowing and speech), massages and chiropractors. Not only that, but Shanna, a single working mom, now had to prepare special meals for the girls, give them daily massages, and carry them up and down the stairs of their two-storey home.
An angel investor stepped forward and purchased a bungalow for Shanna and the girls, and offered to carry the mortgage until the new home could be renovated.
Here was an amazing opportunity to create a safe and accessible home for Kadence and Addison. But how to pay for the necessary renovations? Here’s where things really got amazing….
People began to step forward with offers to help – friends, businesses, tradespeople – who all wanted to donate time and materials to renovate the family’s new home.
Casa Flores General Manager Jolanda Slagmolen-Flores first heard of the project in December 2015 when the family’s story was featured in the media. As a company involved in the renovation industry she knew that we could do something to help, so she immediately emailed to offer assistance.
Initially we thought we’d be able to help by donating a portion of the cabinetry if we could get some of the materials donated. However when we approached our suppliers they came back saying they would donate all of the materials! We were truly overwhelmed by the response. Our amazing team of employees then stepped forward and volunteered their time to build the cabinets. As a result we were able to donate all of the cabinets needed in Shanna and the girls’ new home.
A quick shout-out to the suppliers who contributed:
Multiwood (multiwood.com) – donated all cabinet doors (and they, in turn, got the materials donated by their supplier, McKillican)
Formations (formationswood.com) – donated all materials for the cabinet boxes (and they also split the donation with their supplier – Specialty Laminates)
Marathon Hardware (marathonhardware.com) – donated all drawer slides and handles
Jeco Finishing (jecofinishing.com) – donated the cabinet staining/painting. Their staff also volunteered their time to make this happen, with all paint and stain donated by E. Roko Distributors
Marc Jusseaume, Majestic Woodwork – volunteered to install all of the cabinetry
Nix Repair – took care of the cabinet touch ups before the big reveal
One of our designers had a keen interest in universal design, and she made it a personal concern that Kadence and Addy have an accessible home that would allow them to be able to be as independent as possible.
Our shop staff then volunteered countless hours to cut all the parts. On Saturday, May 28 we had a “build day” – our entire team, including our office staff and even family members spent the day building cabinets. It wasn’t all work – we BBQ’d, had some drinks and shared some laughs.
This was truly a labour of love.
Here is what greeted us when we arrived to install the cabinets. Aaaawwww….
Big shout-out to Marc Jusseaume who volunteered to install ALL of the cabinets.
And of course our own team of cabinetmakers
August 15 was the day of the big reveal! The family had no idea what had been taking place inside the house. In the tradition of “Extreme Home Makeover” a bus was brought in to hide the renovated house until the family arrived. Excitement was in the air!
Finally Shanna, Kadence, & Addison arrived in a limo provided by Ambassador Limousines. The crowd shouted “Move that bus!” and the family was able to see their new accessible home for the first time
The newly renovated home will give Kadence and Addison the maximum amount of independence possible, not only now but also as their condition progresses.
The elevator was a big hit with the younger crowd!
But much more than a fun feature, the lift will allow the girls to be mobile in their own home. Other features include a wheelchair ramp into the home and durable vinyl floors that make it easy to get around in a wheelchair.
The kitchen was custom-designed and built by Casa Flores using the concept of universal design. This means that it meets the needs of all users, both able-bodied and those in a wheelchair. There a different counter heights for the girls and for their mom Shanna. The sink and cooktop are both open underneath, allowing a wheelchair to roll underneath, and the oven and microwave are placed down low. The girls love to cook and bake, so these were important features. There is also lots of undercounter storage for food, dishes, glasses, etc.
In the girls’ bathroom there is a roll-in shower and the vanity is open underneath with a lowered countertop.
But this renovation wasn’t just about the practical stuff. Everyone put their heart and soul into creating a beautiful home for this family. From the landscaping to the decor, there are many beautiful features and fun touches for the girls. Here are some photos of the finished home:
We are so grateful to have been a part of such a special project. We hope that Shanna, Kadence, and Addison will enjoy many happy years in their new home!
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