Monday, December 15, 2014

Mighty Mason – Looking Back

Mason H and his family stayed at Family House after his initial diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease, an autoimmune disease. Family House talked with Mason’s mother, Sara:

FH: What were your first memories of learning that Mason had Crohn's Disease? 

Sara: His initial diagnosis was Crohn's, but then the immunology department at UCSF did some testing on him, and they told us there's a very rare chance that he has a genetic disease called IL-10 Receptor Deficiency. He's the tenth noted case in the entire world. That's how rare it was, but the disease mimicked Crohn's. His GI tract was attacking itself basically. He was always in a lot of pain. 

It was a long road just to get to that diagnosis. Before we just thought this is something that he was going to have to live with and deal with. Then they told us that there was a cure, and the bone marrow transplant should take care of it. It was incredibly frightening, but we also saw a little light at the end of the tunnel.
FH: What was the most challenging aspect of those early days?

Sara: As a parent, the one thing that you want to do for your children is to protect them and help them, and there was just nothing we could do. We couldn't fix the problem ourselves, and that was just the most frustrating thing. Not knowing exactly what it was, and just watching him in pain all the time. It was incredibly hard. It tested our faith very, very much. 

FH: How did you first discover Family House?

Sara: One of the social workers in the hospital had mentioned it, that Family House specifically helps kids who are immune-compromised, which was what we’d need post-bone marrow transplant.

It was nice to see a place that had all of the comforts of home. Everybody was really helpful, and friendly, and very accommodating, especially Paul in the front office – he was just so warm and friendly. I remember when we were waiting outside and Mason was really, really sick. Paul came out and was really helpful and tried to calm us down. He was like that the entire stay. He checked on us. He always asked us how we were doing. He gave Mason a teddy bear right before we left.

We wouldn't have been able to do it without Family House, honestly, because we were there for quite a while after his transplant and because we live four and a half hours away in Reno. They needed us to be close because we had to do blood work every three days. It was a blessing that Family House was there.

We stayed at Family House for five weeks post-transplant before we got the clear to come back home. And we'd had a few stays prior to that as well, when we were doing all the pre-transplant testing. You need quite a few trips back and forth. We always had a place to stay.

FH: Was there anything that surprised you when you first started staying at Family House?

Sara: They have pictures of some of the kids that have stayed there, and it makes you realize that you're going to make it through. You see the kids. Some of them have sent in pictures afterwards once they’re well. I think that was a pleasant surprise, just to be able to see their journeys, and know that there is an end to it.

One of the hardest things - there's really no one else that truly understands what you're going through unless they're going through it, or have gone through it. People can sympathize, but there are very few people that can actually empathize with you. Meeting some of the families, and hearing their stories, it was definitely helpful. But when you have people there that know exactly what it is, it's somehow comforting.

FH: How is Mason doing now?

Sara: He's doing amazing! It's like nothing ever happened. He's four, and he had his first organized sport this year. We put him in soccer. He's just blossoming. He's growing, and he's just really happy. He's like the happiest kid ever.

FH: Is there one thing that you wish other people to know about Family House?

Sara: Just that it really is home away from home when you're in that kind of situation. It's more comfortable than staying at a hotel. You have all of the comforts of home. You've got your kitchen there. You've got your living room. There are tons of movies and toys to play with. They have volunteers going in and out of there cleaning the place all the time. It's incredibly clean. It's just a huge blessing that it's there. It's one of those places I wish more people knew about, and contributed funding to. I try to tell as many people as I can about it. There are people who want to do their end of year tax deduction, giveaways and I'm like, "Donate to Family House. They're really actually helping families."

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Joy Littlesunday & Holiday Wishes

Joy has seen all of her first year milestones at Family House—first Christmas, first steps, first birthday.

Joy Littlesunday was just 3 weeks old when she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease (SCID) that runs in Native American populations.

Rushed to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital from Cameron, Arizona and less than two months old, Joy had a successful Bone Marrow Transplant. Over the past year and a half as baby Joy continues her treatment and recovery, Joy and her mother, Tina, have been staying at Family House. Separated by miles but not by love and support, Joy’s father Jarvison and siblings make the trip as often as possible.
 “Without Family House, I don’t know what we would be doing.  We miss home and being a whole family. Luckily, Family House has provided us the comfort and care to help us get through these challenging times. Family House has helped my daughter celebrate the truly precious child that she is.” - Tina Littlesunday

Help families like Joy's experience all the comforts of the holidays at their home away from home, Family House: Donate today!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Volunteer Spotlight: Danielle Sly

Danielle Sly first heard about Family House through a flyer posted at a local children’s shop, Chloe’s Closet, that donates children’s clothes to Family House. Danielle lives in the neighborhood and wanted to give back to a local organization after leaving the corporate world to raise 3 kids of her own.  She says about the community, “We are Inner Sunset residents and have a fondness for UCSF, as all of our children were born there. Our closest family member in the city is a nurse there. We plan on making this our home for the long term and helping an organization with such a wonderful mission would be mutually beneficial.”

Danielle’s help in the business office is invaluable – taking care of data cleanup tasks for our end-of-year mailings, silent Auction items for events, and even helping with our Capital Campaign. She has had many different volunteer experiences, from volunteering at United Cerebral Palsy, to helping teachers while in high school, to working in a Women’s Soup Kitchen in Boston during her college years. She has also read to students at low income schools during their lunch hour, and volunteers once per month at the SF Food Bank with her 6 year old son.  

When Danielle has free time she likes to  run, hike, bike and explore San Francisco with her kids and husband.

Thank you Danielle for all of your help at Family House!

To learn more about volunteering at Family House, visit

Monday, November 17, 2014

Family House Family Stories: Mike and Deneen

The latest Family House Family Stories video - Mike and Deneen! This courageous family has been staying at Family House on and off for 9 years, and their son, Michael, is in remission! Watch more Family Stories videos at

Monday, November 10, 2014

Johansen Family Homecoming

We love you, Johansen family! We’re so glad that little Savannah finally gets to go home! Check out this beautiful photo documentation of a family with a little girl who spent the first few months of her life at Family House, and finally got to see her house for the first time:

See all of the photos at:

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Time Lapse Construction of the Nancy and Stephen Grand Family House


Check out this fun time lapse video of the start of the Nancy and Stephen Grand Family House at Mission Bay! We broke ground on September 17, 2014, and will open our doors to 80 families per night in January, 2016! Read more about the project here: