By Lee Merrill

ometimes, a chance encounter can change the course of one’s life. That’s what happened to Alex Hobson, the director of the Shreveport chapter of Once Upon a Room, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that decorates hospital rooms for children and teens who are facing an extended hospital stay due to chronic illness or long-term acute trauma.

“I just happened to connect with Jenny, the founder of Once Upon A Room, in an online crafting group,” Hobson said. “I noticed some of her posts about what she was doing and asked her if I could become involved.” Hobson began the process of starting a chapter in her former city, Oklahoma City, but the family moved to Shreveport-Bossier before things got off the ground. She quickly pivoted to start the first Once Upon a Room chapter in Louisiana. “Our goal is to have at least one chapter in every state,” said Hobson. Louisiana boasts two chapters now that the New Orleans chapter is up and running.

Once Upon a Room-Shreveport celebrated its first anniversary last July. Because it is a fledgling nonprofit, many residents are unaware of what this inspiring organization has to offer. “We work with the child life specialists in local hospitals to decorate the hospital rooms of children who will be spending at least 72 hours in the hospital,” Hobson explained. “Parents or guardians can fill out an interest form, and the child life specialists pass the forms to us. We then get to work transforming the child’s hospital room into a more cheerful and comfortable place. Every room gets new bedding, a personalized banner, a light feature, books and activities and more. We have several preset themes to choose from, but we also try to accommodate special requests.”

The room transformations boost morale for the children and their families, which promotes hope and faster healing. “We like to involve the nursing staff in the room transformations. They seem to enjoy brightening their patient’s day as much as we do,” Hobson said. “One of the social workers shared with us that the transformed rooms are a therapy tool. She said one boy smiled for the first time in two weeks when he saw his improved room.”

Word is starting to spread as the organization becomes established with more of Shreveport-Bossier’s hospitals. “Right now, there are only three of us handling the day-to-day operations, but we’re growing. In October, we had a golf tournament fundraiser, and in the spring, we’ll have our first 5K to raise funds so we can deck out lots of rooms,” said Hobson. “We receive lots of donations through our Facebook group and positive social media posts by families who benefited from our special services. We are deeply grateful for the Krewe of Oceanus choosing us as their charity of the year.”

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