Monday, November 28, 2011

Boswick the Clown came to Family House!

     Boswick is the San Francisco Bay Area's premier family entertainer. An accomplished clown, juggler, and magician, Boswick has provided quality entertainment and fun for thousands of people across the country. He has been involved with Family House for many years and has provided endless laughter and joy to our families and their children.
           "I’ve been doing the Thanksgiving Family House event for a lot of years. I do a lot of shows, I’m approaching 7500 shows in my career but this is the show I get most nervous about. A lot of the kids have seen me, Raul’s family alone has been there now 2 years, they’ve seen me numerous times. Some kids will have nothing to do with me, the staff has certainly seen me and the volunteers look at me like this... “uh huh...a clown...” I’m a celebrity among these kids, they see my picture around, they all either own one of my DVDs or have easy access to it. In the Family House world, I’m Robin Williams. It’s pretty cool but a lot to live up to. And then there are kids like Lana, Hannah (who I called Hanukah), Max and Rubin, neither of whom could speak. These kids laughed and laughed hard. These kids are in my life forever, with their laughter.
           Kids need laughter like they need dessert. A child can live without both but that’s not a life you want for a child. It’s fun to see kids eat birthday cake and it’s just a kick to see children laugh. Each year I get the kids (and crowds) laughing harder and harder. I guess that’s what I get nervous about; can I top what I did the year before? Will the kids respond? I don’t know. Performing is walking a tight rope, I get big rewards in laughs and hugs but it’s a bit scary climbing to the wire.
           Hopefully I can keep coming back year after year. This is the show that makes me nervous, it’s also the show with the most reward."

        All of us at Family House really appreciate the smiles and laughs that Boswick brings us. A father staying at one of our houses sumed it up pretty well; "It's a beautiful sound when you hear any person, but in particular a little child, laugh so hard they can't control themselves. Those kids and (ahem) some of the adults, were "taken away" for awhile. Very therapeutic, very fun."

     So we thank you Boswick, so much, for entertaining us and for keeping our families laughing! Please visit Boswick's website for more informations: 

Inspiration to get you through your day!

"If children have the ability to ignore all odds and percentages, then maybe we can all learn from them. When you think about it, what other choice is there but to hope? We have two options, medically and emotionally: give up, or fight like hell."
                  --Lance Armstrong

Saturday, November 12, 2011

We Love! is an enterprise cloud computing company that aims to help enterprise customers increase sales, improve customer service, collaborate with their team, and develop customized applications on the Salesforce platform.  Another aspect of this company is their Foundation which is based on a simple idea: Donate 1% of’s resources to support organizations that are working to make our world a better place. To say the least, Family House is extremely glad to be reaping the benefits of this great foundation’s generosity.

Since early 2009, Salesforce has been an extremely important and driving force behind the success of Family House. They have contributed countless hours, close to 1,000 dollars in donations and the generous time and energy of over 200 volunteers.  Throughout the years, Salesforce has carried out numerous events and activities for our families. From painting rooms, gardening and reorganizing the garage; to creating a carnival, hosting food drives and a summer kick-off BBQ, nothing stops the Salesforce team when it comes to doing good at Family House! In fact, since partnering with the New Hire employees, volunteer support at Family House has risen 50%! Every time Salesforce team members enter our houses, the place ends up looking better and the kids and their families feel better too!

Salesforce volunteers help us create activities that enhance the lives of the families staying with us. During these times, our families and their children are able to forget the stresses of the hospital and the pain of treatment. They are able to have fun, enjoy themselves and smile! We thank for doing such great work and for helping change the lives and situations of the families staying with us at Family House.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Odetta's Story of Hope

My name is Kathy Allbright and I have lived with Type 1 Diabetes for 30 years. I have a condition called Hypoglycemic Unawareness, which means I cannot detect when my blood sugars rapidly drop to dangerous lows. In 2009, I discovered a non-profit organization called Dogs4Diabetics that trains service dogs to detect and alert their diabetic handlers to the onset of hypoglycemic episodes.  After applying to the program and successfully completing the training, I was paired with a small, black labrador retriever named Odetta. Since our partnership, I have not experienced any dangerous episodes, as Odetta has kept me safe in countless situations, allowing me to enjoy the activities I felt I could no longer do. She has been my guardian angel, my closest companion and brings smiles to people everywhere we go. 

In May, I found a lump on Odetta's check and a biopsy revealed a fibrosarcoma tumor. I was completely devastated by her diagnosis, as Odetta is just four years old. After an aggressive surgery, which removed her entire cheek bone, dirty margins remained. The oncologist told me that our only hope for removing the microscopic cells that remained was radiation therapy at UC Davis, though she said it could take time to get an appointment. Since Odetta's cancer was very aggressive, waiting wasn't an option. She has saved my life so many times and now it was my turn to fight for hers. I frantically emailed and called everyone I knew, hoping for a connection to UC Davis, and a few days later my hard work paid off. I received a call from Gordon Theilen, the 83 year old founder of the UC Davis veterinary oncology department, who said he had heard about Odetta's cancer through a prayer chain started by a work colleague of mine. He was amazed by her service and scheduled a meeting with the UC oncologist immediately. I soon after moved to Davis where Odetta successfully completed 17 rounds of radiation.  Three months later Odetta’s energy and fur, which has turned white, returned. We have follow up appointments every three months for the first year, though she will be monitored closely for the rest of her life.

           Cancer is agonizing for everyone. There have been many times when fighting Odetta's cancer has felt completely overwhelming both emotionally and physically. In the beginning, I felt consumed by feelings of loss, guilt, and anger. Without the endless support of my community of friends, family and veterinarians this journey would be impossible for me to make.  It is now my turn to share the support that so many people have given to me. Odetta and I are volunteering each month at Family House, visiting children afflicted with cancer and their families. My wish is to bring smiles, inspiration and empathy to them on their journey with cancer, and most importantly to help share what so many people have shared with me: hope.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Anna's Story

Anna Lark first learned of Family House in 2001 when her older brother Josh was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Because of the severity of his diagnosis, Josh was immediately referred to UCSF Medical Center. Coming from the Central Valley, the Larks were not prepared to split their family up by the distance and thankfully within a week of Josh’s transfer, all seven of the Larks had moved in to the 2nd Ave House. Mom and Dad, Anna and her sister, Josh and two other brothers were all welcomed into the house and stayed there on and off for over a year and half. In that time, Anna remembers that the entire Family House staff was always there for them. The other families were a great source of support and the house was filled with positive and comforting energy.
            After Anna and her sister donated two rounds of stem cell transfers, Josh began to get better. He was released from UCSF Medical Center in 2008 and the family returned home. Unfortunately, shortly after Josh was doing better, Anna’s mom received devastating news. She had a brain tumor, lung cancer and 3rd stage breast cancer. She fought strongly through chemotherapy and radiation but died in April 2004.
            More bad news came Josh’s way when he had to return to UCSF with his dad for more treatment.  Anna and the rest of her siblings were able to again stay at Family House, this time for about two months. Now being a single parent family working off a teacher’s salary, the Larks were extremely thankful for what Family House was able to provide for them. Shelter, food and kindness do not even seem to cover it. Anna and her family were guests of honors at benefits; they were invited to movie premieres and had lots of exciting experiences at baseball games and music concerts. 
            Josh is in remission now and doing great. He is a happy and healthy college student, as is Anna. She has returned to San Francisco and Family House is now lucky enough to have her as a volunteer. Anna says she has nothing but gratitude for the people at Family House because they brought the comfort of a home to her and her family when they really needed it.
            After experiencing Family House as a resident, Anna now chooses to volunteer her time and special skills. Coming from a family of artists, Anna has been doing monthly art therapy sessions in the houses. She hopes to bump it up to twice a month because she just can’t get enough! Doing art with the families is a great way to release emotions and it is a fun and creative activity that can allow the parents a bit of a break too. Anna understands a lot of what these families are going through and we at Family House appreciate so much that she has come back to help out! Anna hopes that by sharing her story, more and more people will become aware of the wonderful things this organization is doing, and hopefully more and more people will be inspired to help.