PALMETTO -- After a day of roller coasters and traipsing through a safari, all 8-year-old Matthew DeSantis wanted to do was get into his new bed and go to sleep.
New it was, his whole room in fact.
"It's awesome," Matthew said.
While Matthew enjoyed a day of fun at Busch Gardens in Tampa with his family Saturday, his room got a whole makeover thanks to Special Spaces Tampa.
Matthew's love of baseball was reflected in the decor, complete with an autographed picture of Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon.
"You guys are truly amazing," mother Donna DeSantis said. "This is crazy."
Matthew was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia in September 2011.
Special Spaces is a nationwide nonprofit whose mission is to pro
vide bedroom makeovers for children who have life-threatening conditions. The immediate family is sent out for the day, and all the work is completed by volunteers by the time the family returns.
Many DeSantis family members and friends were at the home Saturday to help and to watch the transformation.
"For Matthew, this is going to be a dream," grandmother Sandy DeSantis said. "He loves the Rays."
His grandmother and others sat anxiously awaiting Matthew's return.
"He is going to be shocked," she said. "If I know him, he will keep everything the way that it is."
The makeover included new paint, wood flooring, furniture and baseball accents everywhere, from the ceiling fan to his desk lamp.
Because of his condition, Matthew had to give up playing baseball about a year ago, but the love didn't end there.
"He still went to the games and supported the team even though he couldn't play," his grandmother said.
He is responding well to treatment, she said.
"Matthew, he's a fighter, " she said. "When Matthew does say he hurts, you better listen."
Special Spaces Tampa held a fundraiser in the fall to raise the money needed for the makeover of Matthew's room, according to Director Debbie Martin. The average budget for each room is $2,500, and all the manpower is volunteer-based. In-kind donations such as the wood flooring from Home Depot of Bradenton and the paint from Sherwin Williams also help to make it possible.
Muralist Pam Eckle also donated her time to turn Matthew's closet doors into a locker room.
The idea is to make the room as comfortable as possible for a child who often times may spend more time in his or her room than most.
"These children are so sick and some of these families don't have the financial means or the time," Martin said. "We meet with them before to see what they would like or special needs like equipment."
Martin, along with a crew that included local high school student volunteers, worked nearly 12 hours to create Matthew's new digs.
Special Spaces didn't want Matthew's sisters, 11-year-old Mikayla and 5-year-old Madison, to feel left out, so they added a few new touches to their rooms as well.
It was a nice day at the park, father James DeSantis said.
"The kids were really excited," he said. "The anticipation was the worst part."
Jessica De Leon, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.