“It looked pretty sad,” the 12-year-old girl said. “It had really bright yellow paint on the bottom, and a lot of the wallpaper was peeling.
“It really wasn’t very comforting.”
Her mom, Terri Arthur, added, “There was really nothing for the children to do but sit and watch TV.”
That was about a month ago.
Now, there are toys stacked against one wall, colorful stripes painted against another and a chalkboard wall across the lower third of all four walls.
The seeds of this project were planted shortly after a devastating tornado hit Oklahoma.
Madison, a student at Moreno Middle School, wanted to raise money and donate bags with needed supplies to the victims.
Terri said that the Red Cross mainly wanted water and money.
So, Madison turned her attention to the needy children here in her hometown.
“She raised money and bought school supplies for the Rainbow Room,” Terri said.
But that donation would be just the beginning.
When she first saw the neighboring visitation room, Madison knew something had to be done.
“They help out the kids,” she said. “If I were in that position, I would want to be helped.”
She began soliciting more donations from people and businesses to help fund her endeavor.
“We made a lot of phone calls and went to some businesses,” she said.
When they had enough money, they went back to the CPS office, 1800 S. Washington St., and began their work.
“We took a weekend and came here and worked 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. and got it done in two days,” Madison said.
Madison said she chose chalkboard paint on the lower portion of the walls so that children would have somewhere to draw while they waited.
Even her younger sister Alison, 7, offered her artistic expertise.
“She was very good about putting some artwork up for the kids,” Terri said, adding that Cameron, the older brother, also helped with the project, along with family friend Alex Puga.
The walls are now filled with chalk drawings done by the children waiting in the room.
“It makes me feel good to see that they are using it,” Madison said.
While paint made the room pretty and inviting, it still needed more.
“She was able to raise enough to buy a bunch of toys,” Terri said.
Even when Madison walked into the room on Wednesday, she had more presents.
This time, an Xbox Kinect and additional game for the youngsters to play while they wait in the room.
“Hopefully, now it is nicer for them,” Terri sad.
This altruistic nature is something that Terri says she has tried to instill in all of her children.
“Our family is very blessed, and we try to teach our children they need to give back to the community,” she said.
And Madison has definitely learned that lesson and is doing her part to instill it in her younger sister.
“I think Ali is going to like doing these kinds of things,” Madison said.
Terri, speaking of Alison, said, “She wants to be a big helper, but she is 7. She needs her own little projects.”
Terri beamed with pride at Madison’s work. Neither of them expected any publicity for it. In fact, neither of them told media outlets of the project.
“This isn’t something you would expect a 12-year-old to do,” she said.
As she looked at her daughter, she added, “I don’t think you realize what a big thing you have done.”
Jessalyn Goodman, investigation supervisor for CPS, knows just how much the room is appreciated by the children and families.
“It is a amazing,” she said as she stood in awe at the finished room.
“It is a wonderful place for our families to interact together.
“I am just speechless right now.”
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.