When Holly and Pete Ranney married and moved into their first home, they realized that they both brought knowledge and experience to the table when it came to home improvement. They put their passion and skills to the test by founding Sunshine on a Ranney Day, a Roswell-based nonprofit organization that creates dream rooms and home makeovers. The recipients of these makeovers are children with long-term illnesses. Since 2012, SOARD has become a leading charity in Atlanta, and today, we’re thrilled to feature Holly as our FACE of Atlanta. Welcome, Holly!
Where are you from, and how did you arrive in Atlanta?
I was born and raised on the eastern shore of Maryland and I went to college at High Point University in North Carolina. Right before I graduated, I interviewed with Rooms To Go and got the job; they moved me down to Atlanta in 2002.
Tell us about your family.
My family still lives in Maryland and Delaware. In 2010, I married Pete Ranney, who I met playing co-ed softball, and after more than five years being married, we are now expecting our first child in March!
Tell us about SOARD. How did the idea come about, and what exactly do you do?
I had been working in the furniture industry for over 12 years, and Pete grew up in Hilton Head, SC, helping his dad with his construction business. When we bought our house in 2011, I saw all the things Pete was custom building—including our pet pot belly pig’s home, which is larger than a child’s playhouse and is a small replica of our own home—and knew we could do something together to help people in their homes. We had a lot of connections and resources, and decided that helping children with long-term illnesses would be the cause. Once we made that decision, we developed Sunshine on a Ranney Day (including our last name because we knew this was going to be our legacy). We started out doing room makeovers, mostly for children with cancer and children who have been in the hospital or doctors’ offices numerous times. But as time went on, we realized these families needed so much more. They needed wheelchair-accessible bathrooms, therapy rooms, wheelchair ramps, widened doorways … this is how we got more into the construction and renovation side.
How does someone get chosen for a SOARD project?
We have an application process. We also have other organizations and hospitals that refer families. Our application is very detailed, and we require doctors to sign off on them. We review the applications every three months, and then set up to meet the family at their home. Also, we have great partnerships with Make-A-Wish® Georgia, Fragile Kids Foundation, Ride to Give and some other nonprofits that help children with similar long-term illnesses.
How much interaction do you have with the families?
Once we confirm that family as a makeover, we are in touch with them daily. Pete and I are actually in their homes working for most of the project; Pete oversees them on-site. It’s important to make the family feel comfortable, as they are letting us in their home and trusting us to make it better for them. By the end of the project, we become family.
What has been the most rewarding part of SOARD? What’s been the most challenging?
The most rewarding part of SOARD is the Reveal Day, when we get to see the family react as they see our renovations for the first time—this is always emotional. While we are working on the space, we lock them out, so they do not see any design or progress until this day. The Reveal Day is a time where all the sponsors, donors and volunteers get to see what all of their hard work and time and money went to. Seeing a parent show their child their new wheelchair-accessible bathroom—where they might not have been able to access in the past—is priceless.
The most challenging would probably be our tight timelines. Once we commit to a family and choose the start date, we have to get the project completed very fast. A lot of times, the bathroom we are working on is the primary one on the main level, and they have no other way to bathe their child; we have to make sure we can complete the bathroom quickly. The less time we inconvenience the family, the less stress.
What has been the most memorable project you’ve worked on or family you’ve worked with?
The most memorable project would be the home renovation for Tripp Halstead. It was also our largest project. Tripp was hit by a tree limb at his daycare during Hurricane Sandy. He suffered brain damage, and his family has been through so much. Since their home did not have a full bathroom or bedroom on the main level, they had to sell their home. They purchased a foreclosed home that needed a lot of work. We decided to take on the entire home as a project so the family did not have to deal with the stress of home renovations. By the end of the four-month renovations, it ended up being a $300,000 project, and we had everything donated by more than 100 companies and thousands of donors. We had around 500 people attend the reveal, and over 1.6 million people watched the live stream of the reveal on WSB-TV’s website. It was a large project and to this day, the Halstead family continues to help SOARD in fundraising and spreading the word, so that we can help so many more children.
What is some valuable advice you’ve been given?
Take one day at a time, and take some time off for yourself.
What was your most recent “wow” meal in Atlanta?
My weakness is pizza, and the best pizza that I crave—and I’m pregnant so it’s not hard—is 850°F Barpizza in Milton. We like to stay around the historic Roswell area.
What books are currently on your bedside table?
I am an Emily Giffin fan. I tend to get caught up in them and finish them a day after I start, but I typically read books on a weekend getaway or vacation.
How do you do to unwind?
My couch! Anytime I can have couch time and turn off all electronics it’s nice.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
It might come across surprising, but I do not like public speaking. I’m actually a shy person and stay more behind the scenes.
What three things could you not live without, excluding faith, family and friends?
Reality TV (my escape); space—I need alone time to regroup; antiques—shopping for antiques is my therapy.
Thank you to Catrina Maxwell of CatMax Photography for today’s great photographs.
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