Heart of the home

Syr­i­anna, 9 months, has an ocu­lar tu­mor. Her fam­ily re­ceived a home makeover to help lessen the fin­an­cial strain of the dia­gnos­is.

  • Acts of kindness: Michelle Placencia and her 9-month-old daughter, Syrianna, smile with Philadelphia Flyers wives and girlfriends inside her Holmesburg rowhome. The house underwent major renovations thanks to Flyers Charities and Michael’s Way. BILL ACHUFF / FOR THE TIMES

  • Sonia Perez, Syrianna’s grandmother, was thrilled to see the new kitchen. BILL ACHUFF / FOR THE TIMES

  • Building a future: Flyers Charities and the charity Michael’s Way worked to give a Holmesburg family a home makeover. Syrianna, 9 months, has optic glioma, which presents itself in the form of ocular tumors. BILL ACHUFF / FOR THE TIMES

Michelle Pla­cen­cia couldn’t be­lieve the look of her Holmes­burg rowhome.

Pla­cen­cia, a 16-year-old ju­ni­or at Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln High School, and six oth­er fam­ily mem­bers spent a week at a hotel as a con­struc­tion crew and Phil­adelphia Fly­ers wives and girl­friends com­pleted a makeover of their home.

The good deed was cour­tesy of Fly­ers Char­it­ies and the char­ity Mi­chael’s Way.

Pla­cen­cia and her fam­ily were chosen in a con­test sponsored by Mi­chael’s Way. A St. Chris­toph­er’s Hos­pit­al for Chil­dren so­cial work­er nom­in­ated the fam­ily, out­lining in a let­ter how a home makeover would lessen the bur­den for Pla­cen­cia and her 9-month-old daugh­ter Syr­i­anna, who has op­tic glioma, which presents it­self in the form of ocu­lar tu­mors.

Con­struc­tion work­ers spent the last three months do­ing some of the work and really got down to busi­ness in the fi­nal week as the fam­ily stayed at the hotel. The Fly­ers wives and girl­friends ad­ded plenty of amen­it­ies.

On Sunday af­ter­noon, it was time for the big re­veal.

“Wow. Oh my God. Amaz­ing,” Pla­cen­cia said. “The Fly­ers wives gave us this amaz­ing ex­per­i­ence. It’s an ex­per­i­ence we won’t for­get.”

Even bet­ter, Syr­i­anna’s pro­gnos­is is im­prov­ing.

“The tu­mor star­ted at nine mil­li­meters and is now five. That’s a big change,” Pla­cen­cia said.

“Right now, the baby, she’s really fine. The tu­mor went down. We’re happy,” said So­nia Perez, Syr­i­anna’s grand­mom.

Mi­chael’s Way was foun­ded in 2002 by Chris McEl­wee, a May­fair nat­ive and Lin­coln gradu­ate. He began the char­ity in memory of his older broth­er Mi­chael, who died of leuk­emia at age 25.

In the last 15 years, Mi­chael’s Way has raised more than $6 mil­lion in non­med­ic­al bills in sup­port of its mis­sion to im­prove the lives of chil­dren with can­cer and sup­port their par­ents strug­gling un­der the fin­an­cial strain of the dia­gnos­is.

Since its in­cep­tion, Fly­ers Char­it­ies has con­trib­uted over $26 mil­lion to char­ity. The funds are raised from the Fly­ers Wives Car­ni­val and oth­er ini­ti­at­ives and events.

For the last six years, Mi­chael’s Way has teamed with the Fly­ers in an en­deavor dubbed “Build­ing Hope for Kids.” So­cial work­ers at St. Chris identi­fy chron­ic­ally ill pe­di­at­ric can­cer pa­tients in need.

McEl­wee was happy to help Syr­i­anna and her fam­ily.

“We’re six-for-six. It was a pretty amaz­ing ef­fort. The whole Fly­ers or­gan­iz­a­tion is amaz­ing,” McEl­wee said. “This is the first time we did it for a baby. The whole fam­ily is caring. We knew it was the right one. It’s an amaz­ing fam­ily.”

McEl­wee owns Fas­track Con­struc­tion, and his work­ers cre­ated a base­ment suite for Syr­i­anna and her mom. They also re­modeled the rest of the home to make it more com­fort­able for Pla­cen­cia’s mom, grand­fath­er, two sis­ters and broth­er.

Be­gin­ning in Janu­ary, the Fly­ers wives and girl­friends helped with design, lay­outs and oth­er d&ea­cute;cor. They util­ized sev­er­al new fur­niture pieces donated by Bob’s Dis­count Fur­niture, one of many com­pan­ies chip­ping in.

“Everything was donated,” said Han­nah Belle­mare, wife of Fly­ers left wing Pierre-Ed­ou­ard Belle­mare.

Rain fell on Sunday, but it was still a block party at­mo­sphere on the 8000 block of Walk­er St. There was plenty of food and drink, in­clud­ing from a Chick­ie’s & Pete’s truck. A DJ played mu­sic, and kids played hockey.

Coach Dave Hak­stol was there, along with play­ers such as Belle­mare, Claude Giroux, Radko Gu­das, Wayne Sim­monds, Sean Cou­tur­i­er, Trav­is Konecny, Matt Read, Chris VandeVelde, An­drew Mac­Don­ald and Shayne Gostis­be­here

Guests toured the new-look home, which in­cluded a new swing set and grass in the back yard and new fen­cing and grass and a paved drive­way and side­walk out front.

“We’ve all made this a labor of love,” said Doreen Holmgren, wife of Fly­ers pres­id­ent Paul Holmgren. “We’re here to fight with Syr­i­anna.”

Han­nah Belle­mare was es­pe­cially proud of the base­ment bed­room.

“We call it ‘Michelle’s suite,’ ” she said. “All the girls got to work as a team.”

Erinn Hak­stol, wife of coach Dave Hak­stol, poin­ted to the new bath­room ad­ja­cent to the base­ment bed­room.

“Everything is nice. I hope it trickles down and spurs hap­pi­ness, and people pay it for­ward,” she said.

There were be­fore and after pic­tures of the home’s look.

“This is so beau­ti­ful. I don’t know how they did it,” Perez said.

Perez painted her nails or­ange for the oc­ca­sion, and the fam­ily presen­ted a plaque of ap­pre­ci­ation to Mi­chael’s Way and the Fly­ers wives.

“This was a sur­prise for me,” she said. “This is amaz­ing. It’s a hun­dred per­cent bet­ter. They did everything, and everything is beau­ti­ful. I feel like a VIP.” ••

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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