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Oakdale Boy Chosen For Special Home Makeover
0515 DJ Trailer
Volunteers work feverishly as they put final touches on a mobile home as part of a Special Spaces makeover for David DJ Jacobsohn and his family. DJ died on Saturday, hours before the final project was to be revealed. RICHARD PALOMA/The Leader

Under the warm rays of the May sun, scores of caring volunteers on Friday afternoon, May 10, put finishing touches on their gift to a child that, as it would tragically turn out, would not experience the fruits of their labor in the donated space of Casa de Amigos Mobile Home Park.

David ‘DJ’ Jacobsohn, 10, was selected by The San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of Special Spaces, a non-profit organization that does room makeovers for children with critical illnesses.

“In this situation, just ‘a room’ wouldn’t cover it,” said Shelley Ham, director of the SF Chapter of Special Spaces.

Young DJ was diagnosed with a form of bone cancer and his family, having sacrificed time, jobs, and financial resources to be devoted to the needs of their critically ill son, were chosen by the organization after being introduced by Stan Bochenek of San Ramon, whose daughter was also receiving treatment for bone cancer at Stanford Hospital.

“In this case we decided to go beyond our normal mission to help the family,” said Ham. “Because the family lost its money due to medical expenses, I went to the board (of directors) and said we needed to do something to help them.”

In addition to making the referral, Bochonek was one of the many volunteers sweating to get things ready for the scheduled 6 p.m., May 11 “reveal” of a refurbished double-wide mobile home donated Bob Yohanan of San Joaquin Mobile Homes in Keyes.

“I think if all people in the world helped those in need, this would be a better place,” said Yohanan, who also donated the air conditioning unit for the structure. “It’s a sad situation with DJ, but I’m glad to be able to assist.”

The mobile home arrived at the facility on Monday, May 6, as more than 50 volunteers took to painting, installing stairs, building fences, and landscaping as part of the makeover.

The Case de Amigos space was donated by owners Kent and Alice Pryor to satisfy the boy’s wishes due to its rural area with adjoining fields with goats, cattle, and other animals.

The interior of the home was refurbished, furnished, and stocked with food. In addition to the furniture, DJ’s room was supplied with his favorite action figures – all donations from over 35 individuals.

“There’s lots of change when this type of diagnosis happens,” said Ham. “The child is thrown into the adult world and loses the joys of play and school. We try to focus on hope, joy, and love.”

On Saturday, May 11, as the hardworking crews prepared for its makeover revealing only hours away, they received word that DJ died at 1 p.m. in San Leandro where he was receiving palliative care for the cancer.

The news visibly dampened the spirits of volunteers who continued to work steadily through the afternoon, placing finishing touches on the home.

Ham said DJ was quite aware of the project that was under way and that DJ carried a burden knowing that his family had sacrificed considerably seeking a medical cure for his disease. She said it was his wish for the family to have a nice home to live in.

According to Special Spaces, a private showing will be made for the family, and they will move into the completed Special Spaces Makeover home sometime in the near future.