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Puyallup's ReLife Center for kids with challenges gets much-needed makeover

The ReLife Center in Puyallup teaches students in King, Pierce and Thurston countries with emotional and behavioral challenges and was in need of a sprucing up.

PUYALLUP, Wash. — A unique school in Puyallup is enjoying a fresh start after the community pitched in for a much-needed makeover. 

The ReLife Center helps students from schools in King, Pierce, and Thurston counties with behavioral and emotional challenges. The kids' challenges can prevent them from learning in a traditional setting. 

Last weekend, a group of 300 volunteers donated time, supplies, and money to spruce up the entire school. An estimated $200,000 was put into making ReLife more beautiful. 

"I just thought 'Why not come in? Why not make the school more beautiful and give the kids a place to be proud?'" said community member Michelle McClean. 

McClean spearheaded the idea for a school-wide makeover. After teaching some classes at the center last year, she learned about how most funding goes to staffing, since there's about one teacher for every two students. Things like painting, organizing, art supplies, and carpet upkeep fell by the wayside. 

McClean has mobilized community members for local home makeovers before, but this was the first time she tried tackling a school. 

Through her Facebook page, McClean organized donations and rounded up volunteers for months. Last week, on the school's vacation, they all got to work and pulled off the makeover. 

Staff and students were ecstatic. 

"To have a school to come to and learn those skills, that looks beautiful and feels beautiful, and fits the education they get here was amazing," said principal Lynne Truitt. 

The makeover team gave them a fully-stocked library, sensory gym, art room, teachers' lounge and spruced up all the classrooms. 

To the students and staff, it's more than a makeover; it's a permanent reminder that they are cared for. 

"It's a life lesson that every kid counts," said Truitt. 

The next step is installing a new playground at the school, which should happen sometime this year. 

Truitt said the students are working on hand-writing 'thank you' letters to all 300 volunteers.