A Children's Hospital at Erlanger patient checks out a dump trunk and Thomas the Tank Engine-themed items provided by Dec My Room. / Contributed photo by Ashley Zani
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Paw Patrol, Mickey Mouse and Thomas the Tank Engine are among the interests Dec My Room volunteers incorporated into one child's room at Children's Hospital at Erlanger. / Contributed photo by Ashley Zani

Hospital rooms are about as cold, sterile and scary as a needle in the arm. While kids staying at Children's Hospital at Erlanger may still have to deal with needles, their rooms have a bit of the warmth and comforts of home thanks to Dec My Room.

The organization was founded in 2007 by Susan Plank and her daughter Kendall, after seeing the face of a young family friend whose room they decorated at Texas Children's Hospital. The mother-daughter duo then set out to do the same for all children who were staying at the hospital for an extended period.

Now a national organization, Dec My Room creates personalized healing places for pediatric patients who are staying in the hospital for three or more consecutive weeks. Patients or their parents fill out a form listing their interests, favorite colors and toys, and volunteers shop for up to $300 worth of items they then use to decorate the child's hospital room, explained Lauren Dray, director of the Chattanooga chapter.

A college student who volunteers at Children's Hospital at Erlanger, Dray reached out to Dec My Room about a year and a half ago to establish the Chattanooga chapter.

"I ended up stumbling on the organization and thought it was a cool idea," said Dray, who plans to become a child life specialist.

Child life specialists work in children's hospitals and help explain to patients their situation and help them to feel more comfortable, she said.

Dec My Room helps with the comfort factor by providing things that remind the patients of home, including a comforter and shower curtain with themes based on the child's interests, along with toys for them and their siblings.

To pay for those items, Dray collects donations and organizes fundraisers. The next is a "Painting with a Purpose" class at Painting with a Twist in East Brainerd, set for Saturday, June 29 from 4-6 p.m.

For $35, attendees will be provided with all the necessary materials and taught to paint a sunflower, with half of the money going toward the Chattanooga chapter of Dec My Room. Chuy's is also providing chips and salsa for participants to enjoy during class, said Dray.

Painting with a Twist is located at 1309 Panorama Drive, Suite 111. Attendees are encouraged to sign up at, but walk-ins are also welcome.

To volunteer with Dec My Room, email Dray at

Email Emily Crisman at