Chip and Joanna Gaines Surprise Kids Undergoing Cancer Treatments with a Home Away from Home
"I wanted to make the space feel as comfortable as possible for them while they are there," says Joanna
Chip and Joanna Gaines have completed their most important fixer upper yet.
The HGTV stars recently released their Hearth and Hand with Magnolia line for Target, but that wasn’t their only partnership with the mega-retailer. The couple also remodeled the dining room of the Target House at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital —which offers the families of kids battling cancer and other life-threatening illnesses a free place to stay near the hospital in Memphis, Tennessee — using pieces from their Target collection.
“It’s hard to find the words to describe how meaningful this project is to us,” Joanna tells PEOPLE exclusively. “We were deeply moved by our experience there last month.”
The facility, which has been giving a warm and welcoming design refresh by the Gaineses, serves as a temporary living arrangement for families of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital patients whose treatment lasts more than three months.
The previous communal space desperately needed a pick-me-up. Enter Chip and Jo, who looked to their kids —Drake, 12, Ella, 11, Duke, 9, and Emmie Kay, 7 — as inspiration and motivation for the makeover.
“Any time I’m designing a space for children, I always think of my own children for inspiration — whenever I create an atmosphere that is intentional for them, I get to really see them thrive,” says the mom of four. “So when I was creating this space for St. Jude, I was thinking of the children there and I was also thinking about their families, who have basically been uprooted for the treatment their children are receiving.”
Wood tables, a white subway tile backsplash, a coffee bar and inspirational artwork help create the welcoming, familiar aesthetic the couple was looking for.
“I really believe home is the most important place on earth, and while we are hopeful those families will not have to stay there for long, I wanted to make the space feel as comfortable as possible for them while they are there,” she says. “When they go there to eat and to gather, I wanted them to feel like there’s still that sense of home away from home.”
In addition to the remodel, Chip also raised over $230,000 thanks to his four day #OperationHaircut campaign, where he agreed to buzz his hair in exchange for donations — which was clearly just as much of a delight for the children as it was for the contractor.
“We were able to meet many of the children currently undergoing treatment, along with their families,” Joanna says. “It was just an incredible honor that we’ll never forget.”
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The experience also reminded the designer of the blessings in her day-to-day life back in Waco, Texas.
“Gratitude is so important and there is real value in maintaining that perspective in the peaks and in the valleys of life,” she says. “We have so much to be grateful for, and I think anytime you have a chance to take a step back and really reflect on that, you find yourself wanting to bless those who may be going through a tough time in whatever way you can.”