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 décor. 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.” ••