Jaclyn Summitt found herself lying on a hospital bed as doctors informed her father that she probably wouldn’t make it. Her heart was failing to propel enough blood and nutrients to the rest of her body, and the excess fluids built up in her heart were stretching the chamber walls until the organ was three times its normal size. Surely she wasn’t going to make it, they thought.
But the medical professionals underestimated how much heart Jaclyn actually had. Not only did she will herself to survive her congestive heart failure, but also the very next year, she birthed two incredible twin boys, Aydon and Ashton. Try as she might, however, Jaclyn’s heart troubles never vanished, and after spending the past decade in and out of the hospital, Jaclyn finally made a wish — a wish that truly showed the size of her heart.
During one of Jaclyn’s recent visits to the cardiology wing of University Hospital, Dr. Renee Sullivan handed her an application for the Room of Hope, a project that remodels a portion of a patient’s home.
“I think families that go through what they’ve gone through could be discouraged or questioning their faith,” says Sherry Hockman, owner of Hockman Interiors and creator of Room of Hope. “But Room of Hope, for me, is a project that I hope to bless the family, to give them encouragement and to let them know they are loved and supported no matter what they go through. I think we are to be God’s hands and feet, and that’s what I hope to be with this project.”
Without a second thought, Jaclyn wished for Room of Hope to redesign her sons’ bedrooms. “My sons are what keep me going,” she says. “So my wish was for their rooms. This wasn’t even about me. Period.”
When she submitted her application, she didn’t expect to hear back from them at all, let alone be deemed the winner. But even on paper, the Room of Hope committee could see Jaclyn’s huge heart and was inspired by her selflessness. Soon, the Summitt family welcomed a crew of strangers into their home.
“When we first came to the house, pretty much both rooms had a mattress on the floor and then some clothes, no furniture really,” Sherry says. The twin 9-year-old boys, each with a unique set of special needs, also had their own visions of their future bedrooms. Ashton envisioned his room to be devoted to baseball, and Aydon dreamed of a car-themed transformation.
While Sherry and her crew put finishing touches on the rooms the night before the reveal, the Summitt family stayed at Hampton Inn and enjoyed a night of swimming and relaxation. But as soon as the sun rose the next morning, Aydon was by the door, dressed and ready to go.
The moment finally arrived when Jaclyn and her boys got the first peek at the new bedrooms. “This is so cool!” Aydon shouted,
jumping on the bed and flashing a smile for the photographers when he got a first glimpse of his room. Then he touched his new headboard. “I love it! It’s cool because I can’t break my head on it.” He continued exploring his new room, taking in the gas station decal on his walls, the flashing stoplight on his nightstand and the red and yellow cars around the room. Sherry smiled knowing her work was truly appreciated, and Jaclyn wiped tears from her cheeks.
When it was Ashton’s turn, the door of his newly decorated room flew open, and he squealed with delight. He observed the custom headboard, complete with baseballs on each side, the storage space that looked like lockers and a lamp with a whistle cord to turn the lights on and off.
As everyone exited the room, tears streamed down Jaclyn’s face, and Ashton put his arms around her.
“It’s okay, Mama,” he said soothingly. “You’ll have your own room someday.”
“You guys are so lucky,” she replied, tapping him on the chin, then caressing his cheek.
“You know what?” Sherry said. “We surprised your mom and did her room, too.”
Sherry turned to Jaclyn. “As soon as I read your story, I could not help but want to do something for you. So we’ve done your room as well, as a surprise for you.”
“What?” Jaclyn replied, holding her tear-soaked hands to her face. Jokingly, she added, “I want to know why you let me put makeup on.”
Then, for the first time, Jaclyn entered her new room with both boys at her side. Her bedroom, scented by flickering candles, had become a new oasis, swirling with turquoise, marigold and red. Two lamps rested on her new end tables, and a beautifully matching piece of art hung above the bed. A reused sticker from Jaclyn’s old bedroom is now plastered on her closet door as a daily reminder to, “Be your own kind of beautiful.” And, when it comes to beauty, Jaclyn’s heart sets an extremely high standard.
“We wished this,” Ashton said.
“Yeah, we wished that for you, Mommy,” Aydon echoed. Together, they touched the new fabric on Jaclyn’s bed and inhaled the fresh aroma in the room.
Beyond the reveal, Sherry hopes her work will be more than just the stuff inside the Summitts’ newly decorated walls. “They get to experience more than just a room,” she says. “I think they’re experiencing the community and the love from Columbia. I think a lot of people in the community have so much, and it’s easy to turn your eye and not be involved. But I believe that if you’ve been blessed abundantly, you need to bless abundantly.” This reasoning leads her to pull money from her own pockets to partially fund the renovations.
Overwhelmed, Jaclyn confirms Sherry’s sentiment. “It’s somebody’s heart in these rooms,” she says. “It’s part of them being given to you, and it shows.” And, as a patient whose heart problems are triggered by stress, Jaclyn predicts this act of kindness will help her recover. She sees the joy on her young boys’ faces and imagines getting the chance to rest in her new bed.
“This is going to be a huge stress reliever,” she says. “As a parent, you want to give your kids the best, but if I don’t have the money to give both of them the best, I can’t do one and not the other. I couldn’t afford to give both of them all of this at the same time. But this was by far more than what I could have ever imagined. This was a miracle.”
A Special Thank You To:
-Hampton Inn for providing a place for Jaclyn and her boys to stay during the renovation
-Cheerleader Pub & Grill for providing dinner
-Lazer Lanes for providing entertainment
-Sherry’s team of Leslie Davis, Eva Hockman, Barbara Stratton and Dietlinde Sitzer