If you've never heard of the Healing Spaces Club, it's no surprise. The students from De La Salle and Carondelet high schools who make up its membership never have looked for recognition. All they've ever sought through their annual projects is a chance to pool their talents and energy to perform an act of kindness.
One year, club members surprised a 16-year-old suffering from liver cancer with an extreme makeover of her bedroom. In other years, they worked their decorating magic on living quarters at a halfway house, a battered women's shelter and a nursery for children of families in crisis.
This year's "patient," as members call the recipient, resonated more personally. Healing Spaces members showered their affection on Concord residents Stoorai Nuri and her 12-year-old daughter, Hannah, whose lives were devastated 11 months ago by a tragic auto accident just a few blocks from De La Salle.
Stoorai's husband, Solaiman, and Hannah's 9-year-old sister, Hadessa, were killed when a speeding vehicle jumped a curb near Treat Boulevard and Oak Grove Road. Haunted by the memories of their old home, mother and daughter soon moved into a condominium, bringing along none of their old furniture.
"From the time we took on this project, we had a deeper connection because so many of us knew about the accident," said club President Greg Schmidt.
After sharing their plans with the Nuris, the club's 60 members solicited donations from friends, relatives and teachers -- nearly $10,000 in all -- for upstairs and downstairs makeovers. That meant freshly painted walls and new furnishings in the family room, and a closet organizer, chest of drawers, bed, lamp and computer for Hannah's room.
When the big day arrived this month, students worked in shifts, as senior Jack Elliott explained: "We had preppers, painters, movers, organizers, all these groups. We started at 8 a.m. and didn't leave until 6 or 7 that night."
To occupy the Nuris while the work went on, the club arranged overnight accommodations in San Francisco, followed by a trip to a spa and lunch with Carondelet students, with whom Hannah already had a bond. After earlier sharing her dream of one day attending the school and playing for the soccer team, Healing Space Club members had arranged for Hannah to sit on the team bench during a game and receive a T-shirt autographed by the players.
The lasting memory of makeover day came when the Nuris arrived for the unveiling, club Vice President Antonio Costa said: "Just to see the smiles on Hannah's and Mrs. Nuri's face made my day, my week, my year."
The moment was captured on video by an ABC7 news crew, with Hannah's eyes sparkling and her mouth agape. "Oh, my gosh," she uttered as her eyes swept across her reinvented bedroom.
Said Schmidt: "Mrs. Nuri kept saying there's no way I can thank you enough. There was no thanks needed. The feeling we got from doing that touched all our hearts."
Lessa Leigh, club moderator and De La Salle English teacher, said what struck her most was the poignant way in which Hannah's mother summed up her feelings.
"She said, 'Everywhere I look, it's love to me, because I know how much love went into everything around me.'"
No one needs to explain the Healing Spaces Club to the Nuris.
Contact Tom Barnidge at firstname.lastname@example.org.