OLATHE, Kan. — When Katie and Neal Ireland first bought their ranch-style home, they thought it was perfect. One floor meant their oldest daughter Lottie could easily maneuver around the house in her wheelchair.
But as Lottie grew, so did the size of each successive wheelchair. Now even pushing Lottie through a doorway is a struggle, but the bathroom is the biggest challenge.
“Our sink is not at a level where we can wheel anything to it,” Katie Ireland said.
In fact, the Irelands can’t even get Lottie’s wheelchair inside the bathroom door. They have to carry her from one room to the next. Now 55 pounds, Lottie’s not an easy lift.
“It’s scary,” said Neal Ireland, who worries about dropping his 10-year-old daughter who has a rare genetic disorder that has robbed her of the ability to speak or walk.
Such was life for the Irelands — until last December when Schloegel Design Remodel came calling.
For the past 13 years, Schloegel has been giving families of children with special needs new bathrooms as recipients of the Big Splash Bathroom Giveaway.
This year, Schloegel renamed the award to Olivia’s Big Splash in honor of 10-year-old Olivia Bloomfield who passed away last year.
In her short time on Earth, Olivia became a champion for all children with disabilities, constantly speaking campaigning to make everything from buildings to playgrounds more accessible.
“She was a force,” Katie Ireland said.
It was right before Christmas when Katie and Neal Ireland learned that they were this year’s winner of Olivia’s Big Splash. The news brought tears to the eyes of these hard-working, super-chill parents of three.
“Just to know that this was something that would be taken off of our plate,” Katie Ireland. “It meant the world to us.”
Schloegel Design Remodel and its subcontractors have transformed bathrooms across the Kansas City metro for families with special needs children. The Irelands’ house, however, presented a special challenge.
Designer Kelly Summers said the existing bathroom is tiny and it’s the only full bathroom in the house. To remodel it, Schloegel would need to leave this family of five with no tub or shower for more than a month.
To solve that problem, Schloegel decided to use part of the Ireland’s garage to build Lottie her own bathroom-bedroom suite.
After the Irelands chose the exact design that worked best for them, construction began. Crews of Schloegel employees and subcontractors descended on their home.
FOX4 was there to see the transformation on the day they unveiled the new bathroom.
A remodeled bedroom for both Lottie and her younger sister Tinsley has new beds (Lottie’s has a mechanical lift) plus bright colors and a spacious closet.
“Look at this, girlfriend,” Katie Ireland as she wheeled Lottie inside. “What do you think?”
Lottie, who has a rare neurodegenerative disease and can’t speak nor walk, showed her excitement by waving her arms.
What she was most excited about, Katie said, was the sink. It’s one she can be rolled up to and has a special detachable faucet that will allow her to feel the spray on her hands.
Equally exciting was the big bathtub that includes a mechanical lift. That lift will make it much easier for Lottie’s parents to give her the baths she loves.
And there’s more: A large closet off the bathroom has enough storage space for all of Lottie’s medical supplies. Before that, they were stacked in the kitchen.
The Irelands were so moved by the transformation, which included a ramp and all new hardwood floors in their home, they gave the Schloegel team a plaque to thank them and commemorate the day.
“The love, quality and detail is huge and not at all lost on us,” said Katie Ireland, her voice breaking with emotion. “Not only is it super pretty, but it will make caring for Lottie so much easier. You are opening up more of Lottie’s home for her to enjoy.”