Inspired by a confluence of events, Kylie Ponton knew that using her gift of interior design was the perfect way to give back to the community. The Australian native saw her close friend launch a charity in her hometown after a battle with brain cancer.
“It made me see how much impact people could have in their community,” Ponton says. “Simultaneously, a good friend of mine launched Savvy Giving by Design in California.”
Savvy Giving’s mission is to provide comfort, support and healing to families who have a child facing a medical crisis. They do so by transforming the interior spaces of their homes completely for free. When the designer saw it, she knew that it was exactly what she was looking to do.
Four years later, Savvy Giving’s Tampa chapter has transformed 22 rooms under Ponton’s leadership. Savvy Giving not only transforms the child’s room who is undergoing treatment, but the team also designs their siblings’ rooms.
Christen Gray, mom to Finn and Declan, whose rooms were redesigned during Finn’s battle with Ewing’s sarcoma, reflected on the care that the Savvy Giving team put into the project.
“Kylie and the team came and sat with our boys on the floor and really got to know them, what they love, their favorite characters,” she recollects. “They thought of everything – games, legos, space to be creative, practical elements, such as twin-over-full bunk beds because they loved to sleep together, new vinyl flooring to keep the room clean and a sensory swing for a quiet place to read, as Declan was diagnosed with autism during our journey with Finn.”
All projects are completed with the help of a team of dedicated volunteers, as well as community support. Members of the community often rally together to fundraise for a room or buy pieces of furniture or decor to help complete a project.
“It was rewarding to help kids that are going through so much to be happy for a moment,” Ponton shares. “We eventually lost Finn. It makes me tear up every time. The Grays are such a sweet family and Christen has become a dear friend who comes to all of our events and fundraisers and volunteers with us as we create new rooms for families.”
For Gray, what Savvy Giving does goes beyond merely interior decor.
“The Savvy team really thinks about the body, mind and soul when creating the safe and healing space,” she says. “With so much time spent in the hospital, these rooms were more than beds to sleep in. This was a space for the boys to escape to during the ‘well’ times, where they could play and heal their minds. A pediatric cancer diagnosis affects the whole family, and to know the boys had a space that they loved that was safe and clean gave Jim and me greater peace of mind.”
Another mom, Margaret King, spoke about the impact Savvy Giving had on her three kids, Riley, Payne and Emory.
“The room remodels came at a rough, intensive part of Riley’s treatment and it was the positivity and joy all my kids needed,” she says. “They came in and helped create calm out of some of the chaos and made me feel not so alone. Riley wanted a calm, natural/boho-style room. The team nailed it. Emory’s room is a subtle fairy design, perfect for a little girl’s imagination. Payne is all dude. His room is all gaming mixed with a touch of galaxy/space. They really hit all the kids’ personalities.”
For King, who has since begun volunteering on other rooms for kids, what the Savvy Giving team gives to the children and their families is not only a beautiful healthy space, but also a new community of support and love. Ponton and most of her team all have full-time jobs, but they have no plans to slow down with Savvy Giving. They’ll continue to fundraise and design special rooms for kids.
“There’s such a huge demand,” Ponton notes. “We have one room we’re actively working on and two more kids on the waitlist who just applied. We’ll keep treating the rooms exactly like we would for any high-end luxury clients — trying to make them as magical, whimsical, creative and beautiful as we would for any full-service design clients.”
Through their work, Savvy Giving by Design is doing more than just designing rooms, they’re creating sanctuaries of hope.