By Dawn Krebs
MARTIN COUNTY -- When Maureen Burke was taken out to lunch and a little shopping by her friends after a doctor appointment, she appreciated their kindness and the afternoon of fun.
The Stuart woman, a single mother of three boys, was coping with the stress of both moving to a new place and trying to handle ongoing treatment for breast cancer, a disease she had been diagnosed with only recently.
So much was happening at once that it kept her, mentally and physically, too tired to do much to decorate her new house. So when her friends invited her out for the afternoon after a recent chemotherapy session, she happily accepted.
She had no idea what was waiting for her when she returned at the end of the day.
"Maureen always has a smile for everyone and always has something positive to say about everything," said her friend June Parrilli, the media specialist at Hobe Sound Elementary School. "When she moved into her new place, she mentioned a few time how she wasn't able to make her house a home. So we planned to give that to her."
Ms. Parrilli called Nikki Kraemer, who does home staging and interior design, and asked if she would be interested in helping out. Ms. Kraemer enthusiastically agreed.
"Here was this opportunity to help someone who deserves something good to happen, so I agreed on the spot," she said.
At first, Ms. Kraemer was going to go in while Ms. Burke was out and rearrange her furniture and redecorate a little.
"I work with what the home owner has, and I show them what they can do to give them a whole new look to the room," Ms. Kraemer said.
But when she took a closer look at what she had available, she knew she could do even more.
"She didn't have much, so I started calling around and asking for donations," Ms. Kraemer said. "I was able to replace some worn furniture and get extra rugs."
So when Ms. Burke walked through her door at the end of the day, she walked into a completely different house, turned around in circles taking it all in, and then started to cry.
"Maureen was just overwhelmed," Ms. Parrilli said. "I'll never forget it, it was just amazing."
"It was far beyond my wildest expectations," Ms. Burke said. "They knew exactly what my heart and soul needed."
Ms. Kraemer and her team had completely redone the dining room, living room and foyer of the house, adding new furniture, rugs, and dozens of decorative touches.
"It was so much fun," Ms. Kraemer said. "(Ms. Burke) kept saying, 'Whose house is this?'"
"The kindness of everyone, and the professionalism and insightfulness of Nikki and everyone touched my heart so much," Ms. Burke said. "Now I feel I'm in a peaceful place where I can rest and heal. A place that my boys and I can finally call a home."