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BUENA PARK : Volunteers Make Room for Stewart

November 05, 1994|LESLEY WRIGHT

Stewart Porte was like any other teen-ager when he wished for a room of his own.

But that simple wish turned out to be the most complicated ever attempted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Orange County, which was nonetheless determined to grant the desire of the 13-year-old leukemia patient.

So, on Jan. 10, ground was broken behind the Portes' small house on Mexico Way, about six months after the day Stewart noticed the unexplained bruises that signaled his cancer. And Wednesday night a few of the scores of people who contributed time, effort and money to grant Stewart's wish gathered in his new bedroom-bathroom suite to celebrate.

"It was with a sigh of relief that we actually accomplished this," said Jerry Bame, executive vice president of Make-A-Wish, who was on the three-person team that tackled Stewart's wish.

Jeff and Angela Smetanka, the other team members, earned the gold wishbones given to volunteers who fulfill a wish, 1 1/2 years after they started. Most wishes--trips to Disneyland, a visit with a celebrity--take just two or three months to accomplish, officials said.

Bame and the Smetankas first persuaded the city to waive all building fees. Then they lined up more than 40 builders, electricians, cabinetmakers and other contractors willing to donate labor and materials to the project.

Stewart, whose cancer is now in remission, now has a room decorated in a baseball motif, with a desk, mini-refrigerator and ceiling fan.

As grateful as Stewart was, Dominick, his 15-year-old brother with whom he shared a room, was at least as happy. "At least now I can keep my room clean," said Dominick, a neat freak who slept in the living room while Stewart underwent chemotherapy.

"We can't thank you enough for all you've done," Bame said to Stewart's benefactors at the Wednesday unveiling. "But we hope the smile on Stewart's face is thanks enough."

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