For six weeks, Landon Gauer will be undergoing radiation treatment for a tumor on his brain stem.
Thursday afternoon, however, the 7-year-old got to forget about all of that while coloring on the floor with C.J. Sapong, a forward for Sporting Kansas City, in the newly renovated basement at the Ronald McDonald House by Children’s Mercy Hospital. They were coloring posters which will be framed and become part of the decorations in the basement.
“We thought we were going to miss it, but we switched out doctor’s appointment so we could be here today,” said his father, Shaun. “He is 100 percent thrilled.”
The Gauers live in Branson, Mo., but stay at the Ronald McDonald house throughout the week while Landon receives treatment. Shaun said the highlight for Landon was getting to put the final piece in the Lego wall in the kids’ room.
In a partnership with MLS Works (the league’s community outreach initiative), Sporting KC sponsored the renovation and decoration of three rooms at the house. It is a continuation of their work with the Victory Project which provides assistance for children dealing with cancer. The three rooms are catered to kids, tweens and adults with televisions, video game systems and Sporting-themed decorations.
“This room is full of positive energy and when you’re going through a sickness like that, you need positive energy,” Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen said. “This room here is amazing and when I walked in here, I got a little boost of energy myself. It is a very happy room.”
Nielsen, Sapong and six more teammates attended the dedication along with MLS Commissioner Don Garber and Alan Dietrich, the Chief Operating Officer of Sporting KC.
With $100,000 of donations, a group of designers, engineers and builders started the project 10 days ago when Kansas City won the right to play host to the MLS Cup.
The rooms were designed by Jennifer Bertrand who was the season three winner of HGTV’s “Design Star.” The project had special meaning for her because she is receiving services from a branch of the Ronald McDonald House in New York where her son, Winston, who is 4 years old but has already had 19 surgeries related to two malformations.
According to Holly Buckendahl, the Executive Director of the Ronald McDonald House, her staff expects to serve 6,000 families this next year.
“Our aim is to really provide a home away from home for families who need it in incredibly scary times of childhood illness,” Buckendahl said. “They have created a place that is an oasis for families in the basement that will make toddlers, teens and parents happy, and take them out of worrying for a little with what they face at the hospital.”