Room to dream, and to readjust
Nashua volunteers reveal redecorated bedrooms to a family that has been through so much
By Bob Fenske, email@example.com
Duncan Slick climbed the ladder to the top of his loft barn, saw the John Deere blanket, the John Deere stuffed toy tractor and the tractor pillowcase.
The little 4-year-old stopped for a second and took it all in.
“Oh my God,” he said with about the biggest smile a 4-year-old can flash, and the folks in his bedroom on the Slick farmstead southeast of Fredericksburg … well, they swallowed hard and tried to fight back the tears.
It was that kind of Saturday afternoon at the home of Tiffany Slick and her two sons, Duncan and Beau, as Heavenly Days Dream Rooms revealed the bedrooms that were redone by the organization’s volunteers for a family that lost its husband and father when Sean Slick died on Aug. 4 from injuries suffered in a car accident.
Saturday, though, was simply beautiful.
The Slick boys — Sean’s “pride and joys” — first got a look at a new toy room on the ground floor of the two-story house. And then it was time for 2-year-old Beau to see his room, one that came with a John Deere tractor bed and farm animals painted on the walls by a man named Anton Tomash with Kustom Garage Arts.
And after Duncan’s room was revealed, the family opened the door to “mommy’s room.”
“Oh my gosh, Beth, it’s beautiful,” Tiffany said to the Nashua resident Beth Hennigsen, who helped plan and organize the project.
Duncan then saw the picture on a dresser and said, “Look, Mommy, it’s you and Daddy.”
A couple of minutes later, the little boys who have gone through much made another discovery in their mother’s room. There on the window sill sat a cardinal.
For a moment, Tiffany Slick was overcome with emotion. Then again, so was everyone else in that room.
“It’s absolutely stunning, it’s beautiful and I’m very, very thankful for all the volunteers that help do all this,” Tiffany said a few minutes later. “Beth asked me the themes, but that was it. I had no idea it would turn out like this. I’m speechless, grateful, thankful. To know that so many people care about us, about the boys, that’s what has helped us keep going.”
Henningsen wore a “Be Inspired” shirt, and maybe that choice of clothing was the perfect way to describe this project.
Henningsen had talked previously with this reporter about what inspired her to start Heavenly Days Dream Rooms.
Chatting about her childhood, she said her parents dealt with their share of problems, especially addiction, and she said that she definitely had a wild side. There were times that she just wanted all the chaos to end, and that’s when she retreated to her bedroom.
“That was my sanctuary,” she said, “and I think for a lot of people, their bedroom is where they can be themselves, where they can find serenity.”
Henningsen is a recovering alcoholic, and in 12-step meetings there is a saying: “Pass it on.” That can mean passing on sobriety, but it can also mean passing on serenity or any other positive part of recovery.
In February, Henningsen led the charge to totally make over the bedroom of Carter Malone, a 6-year-old Nashua boy who has severe ADHD, autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. His bedroom was completely redone — from the bedding to the walls to the ceiling — with a dinosaur theme.
“The look on his face, oh my gosh, I just wanted to cry,” Henningsen said. “And I kind of knew right there that I wanted to do this again. … Honestly, I needed something to do, I needed to stay busy in a positive way. And I love kids. I absolutely love helping them.”
In August, when Sean Slick died from injuries in a car accident, the 32-year-old left behind his wife and two sons. Duncan had also been badly injured in the accident, and was taken to Iowa City, where he had casts placed on both legs.
A long recovery began, and when he was discharged from the hospital the family moved in with Tiffany’s mother.
Meanwhile, at the Slick farmhouse, a little slice of heaven on earth that Sean and Tiffany bought, work began on re-doing not one, not two, but three bedrooms.
“When you have two young boys, you can’t do just one and not the other. And as a mom, for me to see what she’s going through, I knew we had to do that one, too,” Henningsen said.
“So many people came together to do this, and we really hoped it would be special for Tiffany and the boys. What she’s going through, what they’re going through, we just wanted to help. We wanted it to be different. And meaningful.”
In addition to several volunteers like Reed Palo, Julie and Roger DeSloover who helped out, the Fredericksburg Ace Hardware store has allowed Heavenly Days to open a charge account.
A roofer found the issue with a leaking roof and quickly fixed it. The Fredericksburg Women of Today donated $200 to the cause. Donors have provided everything from bedding to supplies to furniture.
Benny Ganske did electrical work. Jack and Ann Demro provided the insulation and drywall. The Desloovers did the mudding, and helped fix numerous things around the house. Victoria Medlin and Britney Rasing were, as Henningsen put it, “a huge help.”
Henningsen knows that in many ways life will never be the same for Tiffany, Duncan and Beau Slick. They’ve lost their husband and their daddy.
But the goal of Heavenly Dreams is not to erase the past.
“I guess the best way I can put it is that it can be a fresh start, maybe,” she said. “When I sat down with Tiffany, she just captured my heart and I wanted to do something, anything really, to help ease some of what she and the boys are going through.”
Beth’s husband, Nick will be the first one to tell you how proud he is of his wife and the organization she is leading.
“The thing you have to know about Beth is when she puts her mind into something she throws everything into it,” Nick said. “Don’t tell her it can’t be done, you know what I mean?”
And yet, Beth Henningson admits that there’s a bit of selfishness when it comes to Heavenly Days Dream Room.
“Doing this, I don’t know quite how to explain it, but it gives me so much serenity. I need that in my life,” she said.
Tiffany Slick said she was delighted with the result revealed Saturday.
“They just captured so much of the boys’ personalities,” she said, “and with all the little things — the cardinal, the wall sayings — they really honored all the good memories we have of Sean.”