SPRINGFIELD, Mass (WGGB) — With an exceptionally appointed new home and so many other blessings, where does Sirdeaner Walker begin to count?
“I am just elated. I feel very blessed.”
Of course. Despite undoubtedly feeling tired as well, Sirdeaner is living a dream-come-true. First she was notified that her family had been chosen by the folks at ABC’s Extreme Makeover Home Edition to have her home – and so many other aspects of her life – rebuilt. Within hours she and family were whisked away for a Hollywood vacation that included an appearance on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show.
There were even more surprises when she returned, including full scholarships at University of Massachusetts for Sirdeaner’s two youngest children, eight-year-old Charles, and seven-year-old Gloria. Now, we’re not allowed to divulge details of what their new home looks like on the inside, but trust us, it’s going to be tough getting the two youngsters to give up their incredibly fashioned bedrooms for dorm rooms one day.
“She wanted a sleepover, and she wanted to be grounded so she could be sent to her room,” Sirdeaner Walker says of Gloria. It’s a room in which the young girl can dream big dreams, but all of this comes after the worst of nightmares. In 2009 the children’s eleven-year-old brother Carl committed suicide at home on the third floor. If you’re familiar with Extreme Makeover Home Edition, you won’t be surprised that a tragedy like that was top-of-mind in the designing of the Walkers’ new house, which deliberately is absent a third story. One of the most conspicuous features from the outside is a trio of facades painted to resemble a rising sun, symbolic of light and new beginnings.
Sirdeaner says of Carl, “He’s physically not here, but spiritually he is here, and this was his favorite show, and we’ve been so blessed and honored. This is a sign that Carl is resting in peace and he wants us to be at peace and have happy memories”.
But that peace won’t come easy. Sirdeaner appears more energized than ever, to end school bullying. “Everyone can participate,” she says, “and that we can get the Safe Schools Improvement Act passed, which is a federal anti-bullying legislation that we’re trying to get passed”.
In this day and age, though, not all school bullying happens on school grounds, she says.
“When you think bullying ends at three o’clock, in fact it goes on 24 hours a day, seven days a week, because people are on their computers, and children are still bullied.”
The way Sirdeaner sees it, ending school bullying would bring yet another host of blessings. “…a decrease in absenteeism because children will want to go to school, and then you’ll have higher test grades, and ultimately you’ll have people graduating from college.”
Instead of such tragic consequences as those she knows too personally and painfully.
“There are proven studies,” she goes on to say, “that show that the children who do the bullying end up in a system, whether the criminal justice system, the welfare system, or whatever system. They don’t graduate, and they become part of a larger problem for society.”
The legislation efforts are one approach; another is more grass-roots, a new Web site Sirdeaner encourages all – especially school age kids – to visit: www.standtogether.tv.
“They take a pledge to not be a bully. If it’s possible and safe [in the event of a bullying incident] they will intervene. If it’s not possible or safe to intervene, that they’ll report it to a teacher or principal who can intervene”.
The week of September 11-18, 2011 will most certainly be one of Sirdeaner Walker’s happiest memories, even if there’s a tinge of sadness that it’s actually over now, perhaps especially those who worked hardest to make it happen.
“It’s a weird feeling I can’t describe because we spent a week here, cut off from the outside world, and it’s a weird feeling to be finished,” says master builder Nick Riley of N. Riley Construction in Chicopee.
But even after the fact, the blessings continue to mount. One that couldn’t be predicted is the nascent bond between Riley and the family whose home he just orchestrated. Perhaps it’s just serendipity, but Riley’s children and the two youngest Walkers are all similar in age. They even spent much of Monday morning playing an impromptu game of football on the freshly laid sod.
“We’ve bonded and the children have bonded, and his whole family worked on [the house] … it’s just an incredible experience,” Sirdeaner Walker says. She goes on to talk about how palpable the love is, that went in to the building of the newfangled 124 Northampton Avenue, gushing about the very structure that serves doubly as cradle and monument to the best of energies.
“It’s just beautiful, inside and out, and it’s going to be filled with a lot of love.”