Full Steam Ahead
[Landon's Light + Miracle Moment Initiative]
Story by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Katie Sullivan, Pretty Domesticated
Last year, on September 17, hearts all across the region collectively broke with the news of 12-year-old Landon Solberg's passing. While fighting a courageous battle with brain cancer, his final days impacted an entire community with his faith-driven strength and selfless compassion. Today, his foundation, Landon's Light, is on a mission to help other children battling medical conditions, either through financial assistance, or miracle moments calling on one of Landon's favorite pastimes; home remodeling projects. This month, we caught up with Landon's parents, Travis and Andrea Solberg, to see inside their very first project. Designed for six-year-old Tommy Calder, this Thomas the Tank Engine room serves as a hopeful reminder that even the littlest engine can tackle the biggest mountain.
Tommy & Friends
Tommy Calder has Down's Syndrome and has been fighting an Acute B Lymphoblastic Leukemia diagnosis since he was four-years-old. While he's undergone chemotherapy and countless hospital stays, there's one thing that consistently brightens his day; Thomas the Tank Engine. Bringing joy to his journey, Landon's Light Foundation created a Miracle Moment initiative to coordinate a bedroom makeover that would make his dreams come true.
To help guide the process, the foundation recruited the help of a passionate team; Daren Sullivan and his wife, Katie Sullivan of Pretty Domesticated, Kirsten Waverek and Elliot Steinbrink of Studio West Homes, Mikkal Rolfson, Floor to Ceiling Carpet One, and Mary Ellen Rolfson, the foundation's vice president and board member.
"This really was a collaboration of friends and people who love and miss Landon greatly, and who simply want to continue to spread his kindness," said Katie Sullivan.
To get the process started, the foundation reached out to Tommy and his parents, Rob and Tina Calder, gathering ideas and photos that would help them redesign the space. A Thomas the Tank Engine theme was the clear winner, but he also needed new flooring for optimal health purposes. Katie put together the room's mood board, creating a classic design with a playful nod to Tommy's train theme. Due to the pandemic and two-hour drive to the home, most of the planning happened remotely.
Excluding donations, the budget for the room was $1,000, so the team had to get creative. Andrea and Katie were able to find affordable options, including the little red clock Andrea found, which was the pop of color the room needed. Boutiquerugs.com and Clare Paint donated, and locally, Floor to Ceiling Carpet One provided the new flooring, with Elliot from Studio West donating his time to install it.
While Katie found the crossroad sign on Pinterest, Daren made the frame for it, and Mikkal, who is a talented graphic designer, designed and painted it. "The room wouldn’t be the same without it and is the perfect opportunity for Tommy to hang his medals with pride," said Sullivan. "Mikkal is also responsible for the crisp line of the color block wall."
Another goal was to frame a beautiful Thomas the Tank painting a friend had made for Tommy, but a custom frame would have wiped out their budget. The day before the install, Elliot was able to source a custom piece of glass, and that night Daren built and stained the frame with help from Travis.
"Mary Ellen’s closet makeover probably deserves its own story; it was a very impactful aspect of the makeover," said Sullivan. "She remotely planned the closet and then worked with Andrea to install it, transforming it into an easy-to-use and beautiful workhorse for the family, even incorporating picture labels to make it easy for Tommy to find and put away his toys on his own."
Trying to be efficient for the family's sake, they had to work fast to complete the room. "Andrea, Mikkal, and I went up on a Monday to paint the room, then Elliot drove over two hours to install the floors and baseboards in a single night. By Saturday, Travis, Andrea, Mary Ellen, Daren and I were installing the room," explained Sullivan.
When it was time for the reveal, emotions were high for both the team and the Calder family, who were gracious and grateful for the moment. "I took a video of the reveal and you could feel Tommy’s excitement, which was the best," said Sullivan. "The room turned out better than we could have ever imagined, and I can’t help but think Landon had a hand in making that happen. This was the very first Miracle Moment and the install coincidentally fell on the week of what would have been Landon’s 13th birthday and his first heavenly birthday."
"Tommy was very surprised and excited when he saw his room makeover," said Tina Calder. "It was great working with Landon's Light, they were so respectful and knew exactly how Tommy would want his room. A funny thing now, he brings his toys in the living room to play because he doesn't want to mess up his room."
"Tommy’s room was our first Miracle Moment, and it could not have been a better fit," said Travis Solberg. "During times in the hospital, Landon would spend hours upon hours watching HGTV. He loved watching the remodel shows, especially Fixer Upper. Our hearts ache, but we know Landon would be proud of the impact the foundation is having on other families. We felt his presence throughout the entire process, and we could not be happier with the outcome. We hope this space brings joy for years to come for Tommy."
"Nine months before we lost Landon to cancer, we discussed the possibility of creating a foundation in his honor; whether he was fortunate enough to find an effective chemotherapy treatment, or the cancer progressed the way the doctors anticipated," said Travis Solberg. "Our conversations with him were critical in the formation of Landon’s Light Foundation as it drove the mission and vision. Through the foundation's programs, Andrea and I are able to channel our grief and heartache into a way that gives back to the community. We know Landon wanted us to help others, which was always a part of his character."
Landon's mission makes an impact in multiple ways; directly supporting children battling a medical condition such as cancer, and providing financial assistance to organizations benefiting children in similar situations. Another goal is to inspire children to grow academically, as well as in their faith and physical well-being through scholarships and sponsorships.
Miracle Moments are granted by the foundation to spread kindness, with moments valued up to $1,000, or financial assistance up to $500 for kids fighting a serious medical condition such as cancer. The foundation anticipates providing these moments for up to 12 children each year. Anyone can refer a child to Landon’s Light Foundation, including medical professionals, parents or legal guardians. "The Miracle Moment is really an open slate for opportunities, and we actually have another bedroom design coming up," said Travis Solberg. "We are in the early stages of planning, but we are excited to see where this project takes us."
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