Eight-year-old Kassandra Okvath, who lives with her family in Gilbert, Arizona, has battled cancer since doctors discovered a tumor in her kidney in 2003. While Kassandra was fighting for her life, her mother, Nichol, moved from their home to be nearer her daughter. Meanwhile Kassandra’s father, Bryan, lost his truck-driving job for missing work during his daughter’s illness.
In the video she sent to the show’s producers, Kassandra’s simple, selfless request was that she wished that the children struggling with illness at the University Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona—where she has been receiving treatment—might be given something very special. She asked if the walls of the hospital could be painted for sick kids because, as she said, “Sometimes that’s the last things they see.”
Kassandra and her parents, along with other family members, helped 50 Disney VoluntEARS transform the Bone Marrow Transplant Ward with warm, welcoming themed environments featuring beloved Disney characters. Other Okvath family members include Gabby, six, Levi, five, two-year-old twins Josiah & Tobiah and six-month-old Jonathan.
But unbeknownst to the family, the EM: HE design team was also secretly giving the Okvath home in Gilbert—90 miles from Tucson—a total transformation, completed it in the identical, breakneck seven-day time frame. When the family came home following the hospital ward’s makeover, they were amazed to see a brand new 5300-sq. ft. house in place of their former residence—an 1800-sq. ft., 45-year-old house in which one of the bedrooms had been built into the garage.