Grieving girl gets room makeover in Lake Wildwood

Grieving girl gets room makeover in Lake Wildwood

lfabian@macon.comSeptember 27, 2013 

Emma Clare Gunnoe spent most of the past three years sleeping in the living room.

The 8-year-old couldn’t bear to leave her mother’s side as she battled breast cancer.

Joy Diane Elrod Gunnoe died just a week after her little girl’s birthday in March.

Friday night, United in Pink volunteers hung a photo of Joy, pregnant with Emma, as the finishing touch of Emma Clare’s brand new bedroom.

Minutes later, she and her dad got their first look at the pristine pink walls, bright white trim, colorful bed linens and a chandelier of pink drop jewels.

“It wasn’t me, baby. It wasn’t me,” Dion Gunnoe said as his little girl ran into his arms and held on tight.

Her tears stained his shirt.

She’s been holding in her emotions since her mother’s death.

“She hides her crying, so I don’t know when she does it,” he said.

He tried to draw her out a little as cameras followed her every move.

“This is amazing,” he said. “You’ve got some room in here now, and it’s pink.”

Volunteers from the service organization that helps cancer patients and their families cope had heard Emma Clare wanted a place big enough for overnight company.

An anonymous donor paid $5,000 for her new bedroom furnishings, complete with a slide-out trundle bed.

Her father had just returned home from duty at Fort Stewart and was looking forward to the makeover being a new start.

“I hope that it will help her heal a little bit and open up, when she’s ready to talk about things and how she’s feeling,” Gunnoe said. “She’s like a rock. She won’t talk.”

Although she mostly shied away from the strangers in her house, Emma Clare was happy to see the ladies in their pink T-shirts.

She’s built relationships with them at United in Pink’s summer camp and during their visits to help with housework or transportation when her mom was sick.

Executive Director Laura Paxton pointed out the monogram painted on a chevron canvas over her bed.

“Your mommy always monogrammed everything for you,” Paxton told Emma Clare. “When I look at that picture, I think of that wonderful person watching over you every day... so that’s going to bring happy thoughts for you.”

The crew also spruced up the Gunnoe’s deck with a new rug and rearranged the den into a cozy composition.

Schoolteacher Stan Haley, who painted Emma Clare’s bedroom, also has been touched by cancer in the lives of his grandmother, father and wife.

He wanted to make a difference in the Gunnoe’s life, although he hadn’t even met them.

“I really hope she appreciates it and knows that her mom, even though in heaven know, she’s seeing her pretty room,” Haley said.

Emma Clare’s devotion to her dying mother touched many.

“She was the best caregiver I’ve ever met,” Paxton said. “I’ve never seen a young lady be able to give such compassionate care, and be so grown up and handle such a turmoiled time of life with such grace. It was amazing.”

United in Pink volunteer Dodie Cantrell-Bickley, whose husband, Randy, repaired the bedroom ceiling, summed up the motivation for the project:

“It is time for her to be a little girl again.”

To contact Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.


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