Monday, December 30, 2013

Volunteer Spotlight: Jackie Ruiz

Jackie Ruiz is an extra special Family House volunteer.  She just finished 
a semester at University of San Francisco – part of her studies included service hours at the 50 Irving Street office.  Not only is she very easy going, smart, reliable, and friendly - Jackie dedicated extra hours (beyond the 100-hour university requirement) helping at Family House to ensure that the holiday card was sent out on time to important supporters, ensuring that critical services are funded.

Jackie decided to volunteer at Family House because she wanted to be a part of something that would make her grow as a person and help others.  She really wanted to give back and support a cancer organization. Her personal connection? Her own mother just celebrated being cancer-free for 5 years.

Thank you so much Jackie for all of your help this semester. Your thoughtfulness is truly touching, and we appreciate everything you have done to help keep Family House running smoothly. We adore USF volunteers and we were very excited to have your help this semester! Thank you for everything!

You can get involved with Family House! Learn more at

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Wishing you Peace, Love, and Hope

Manuel spent the first 10 weeks of his life in the hospital and at Family House. This 5-lb miracle baby was born with leukemia, and at only six days old, he underwent heart surgery to close a hole in his heart. This was followed by chemotherapy to treat his cancer. The day after this photo was taken, his parents, Patty & Rosendo, would bring him home for the first time.

Please donate today so that parents like Patty and Rosendo can focus on what matters most - their baby's health:

Monday, December 16, 2013

Giving Changes Lives

Below is the text of a letter we received from a donor who is participating in the Family House "Adopt a Family" or "Secret Santa" program. It's so wonderful to hear from a family that demonstrates how giving can make such a huge impact:

Hello Amy,

Thank you for allowing our family to take part in the Family House Secret Santa. Family House took such great care of our family while Natalia was undergoing treatment at UCSF from April 2008 – March 2009. I will never forget being emergency airlifted to UCSF just before Christmas 2008. Natalia was released from the hospital the afternoon of Christmas Eve and was allowed to return home for Christmas. When we arrived back in San Francisco 2 weeks later for another hospital stay, Paul delivered presents that Santa left for Natalia and our youngest daughter Sophia. It truly filled them with the wonder of Christmas. No matter what stress our family had go through, knowing we had a place to stay where people cared tremendously was always a comfort.

I hope that we can help bring a smile to another family. Merry Christmas!

Best Wishes,
Roni V

For information on the Secret Santa program, please contact Karen Banks at or (415) 514-6663

Click here to read the details about the Family House Secret Santa program:

Monday, December 9, 2013

Manuel, A Miracle Baby

Manuel spent the first 10 weeks of his life in the hospital and at Family House.

This 5-lb miracle baby was born via emergency c-section with Transient Myeloproliferative Disorder, a type of Leukemia that affects children with Down Syndrome. At only six days old, he underwent heart surgery to close a hole in his heart. This was followed immediately by weeks of chemotherapy to treat his cancer.

"Manuel was in and out of the hospital for the first two months of his life. He had fluid building around his heart that wouldn't drain on its own. He got a lung infection and had to be on oxygen because his lungs weren't working properly," says Patty, Manuel's mother.

The day after the above photo was taken, his parents, Patty and Rosendo, would bring him home for the first time.

"At Family House, everyone was friendly and open, everyone was willing to help. It's nice staying there - a little home away from home."  Now 8 months old, Manuel can do the things that other babies can do, like hold his own bottle, roll over, and sit up on his own. He's starting to talk, too.

"His heart and pulmonary counts are great. He's doing what normal babies do; we're very happy, we're very proud of him."

Please donate today to Family House so we can help babies like Manuel have a happy, healthy future: 

Click here to learn more about Family House families: 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Volunteer Spotlight: Raissa Bump

Raissa Bump has volunteered as the Family House Yoga instructor for the past 3 years. She heard about Family House through a previous volunteer. Raissa is dedicated to providing monthly yoga sessions to the families at Family House.  Each month she sets up a yoga class and offers the service to families and staff. She is able to teach all levels, from beginner to advanced, and takes extra caution when working directly with the patients. 

Yoga helps relieve some of the emotional, social, and physical stresses that our families are going through. Yoga practices breathing techniques, behavioral guidelines, and physical posture improvements that can be incredibly valuable.

Besides donating her time by volunteering with Family House, Raissa has a thriving business selling amazing jewelry, handmade knit items, and gorgeous clothing.

Raissa, we love your energy and dedication to the families each time you visit Family House. Thank you!

Get involved with Family House! Learn more at

Monday, November 25, 2013

Saint Veronica Student Council Serves Sensational Family House

by Diego M., Kyle McA., Tory P., Alex M., and Maya McG

On Friday, November 15, St. Veronica Student Council visited Family House in San Francisco. Family House acts as a “home away from home” for families with children that have terminal illnesses. Family House provides a place where they can take a break and live their normal life in a less hectic way. These families’ original homes are at least 50 miles away from UCSF Children’s Hospital. Being that far away from the hospital and having to drive back and forth everyday can exhaust the families. Staying at Family House brings them much closer to the hospital, and it models their lives back at home.

Once we arrived at Family House, we were taken aback at how much this organization does to support the families in need, and we were excited to work as its partner. At Family House, Student Council members were split up into three teams to stock the food pantries with donations we bought with money from our Haunted House and with food we received from our Bake Sale. Each group put the donations we collected as a school on the shelves for the families to take and eat. The groups wiped down the food packages to keep bacteria away and organized the pantries so that in the future, families can find food quickly and easily. Each floor also received new pillows and towels (donated by S.V.) that Student Council helped to put away. We did this because after a long day, some of the families just want to eat dinner and prepare for the next day of treatment. Family House is clean and organized so the families’ lifestyles won’t be chaotic.

Our experience at Family House changed our perspective on exactly how an entire family is affected when one member is sick. We take our health and our homes for granted, while these families wish they were at home in good health. In the future, we would love to help Family House even more.

Thank you Family House for our great experience!

From all of us at Family House, thank you, St. Veronica students, for being outstanding volunteers and giving back to your community!

Get involved with Family House! Learn more at

Monday, November 18, 2013

Giving Tuesday

Do you know about #GivingTuesday?  It's the nonprofit world's answer to Black Friday.  Instead of focusing on consumerism, it's an appeal to give back. Please consider making a donation to Family House in someone's honor as a holiday gift.  Helping a family in need (especially around the holidays) feels so much better than that "ugly sweater" you were thinking to give.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Triage Consulting Group: Rockstar Family House Volunteers

If you've been to a Family House fundraising event in the last few years, Triage Consulting Group volunteers have been there, helping with everything from set-up to check-in to selling raffle tickets and more.  If you've been to Family House as a guest or visitor or volunteer, there's a good chance you've been there with volunteers from Triage, there throwing a party for the kids, reorganizing the garage, painting a stairwell, making a meal…

Triage Consulting Group addresses the financial needs of health care providers in the Bay Area and beyond. The company offers its 450 employees in San Francisco and Atlanta Volunteer Time Off (VTO) to each employee, and everyone is encouraged to take time to help out in their community. This culminates in a special "Founder's Day" project - Family House has been a fortunate recipient of Triage's partnership for several years now. On "Founder's Day," Triage volunteers do a complete overhaul of a Family House bedroom - repainting, adding brand new closet organizers and decorations to the room - really sprucing it up to make it something special for families staying there.

James Zackler has been working at Triage since 2010, and has become an enthusiastic champion for Family House - joining the Family House Young Professionals Advisory Council, and now becoming YPAC Chair. Here's what he had to say about Triage, Family House, and YPAC:

"Throughout the year, Triage typically brings anywhere from 25-35 people to Family House for a party, like the Halloween party: pumpkin decorating, t-shirt/costume making, mask decorating, face painting, and trick-or-treat bag decorating. Triagers also put up Halloween decorations inside and outside of the house. While we run these activities, other Triage volunteers are cooking meals for families: lasagna, individual chicken pot pies, rice krispy treats, and pumpkin pie bars. We do something similar in December: we decorate the house with lights, stockings, trees, etc., and cook a big meal for everyone to enjoy.

"Triage has a lot of young, fun employees, which creates a very enjoyable work environment where many create lasting friendships outside of the office. Outside of work hours, we organize volunteers for Family House fundraising events such as Cabernet for Connoisseurs, San Francisco Magazine's Best of the Bay, the Annual Spring Gala, and Bubbles & Bling.

"I got involved in YPAC out of an interest in being more involved in Family House. I had spent many hours working at Family House events through Triage and was looking for an outlet to give back in my personal life as well. I was blessed to be born to a family whose values dictated that in exchange for food security, a good education, and a loving atmosphere, it was my duty to help others who were not as fortunate. Family House has provided me an ability to give back in many ways.  Plus working with Amy, Karen, Greg, and the others is always fun. We are looking to come up with new initiatives (e.g. kickstarter campaign, more networking events/newsletters) and to improve on our previous successes (Shipwrecked, young professional outreach). 

"I feel like Triage will never stop trying to help Family House. As our firm continues to grow in size, this means more VTOs, while exploring original ways to help further Family House’s mission. With Family House's new Mission Bay location, I am sure there will be fresh opportunities for Triage to provide support as well.

"I can genuinely say that the volunteer work Triagers do – while providing benefit to Family House – is a great benefit to Triagers and their future communities. Providing new Triagers the opportunity to visit Family House and help at Cabernet for Connoisseurs & Best of the Bay instills personal philanthropy in many of them. Each year, there is a new group of Triagers that makes the transition from the mindset of a college student that has little money and skill to offer the community to a young professional that has more of both. So – thank you Family House and thank you Triage for providing opportunity to discover the personal benefits of community service. "

Family House could not exist without volunteers like those from Triage. We love you so much and thank you for everything you do for our families!

Get involved with Family House! Learn more at

Volunteer Spotlight: Paul & Leslie Radcliffe

Family House volunteers are some of the most dedicated, understanding, and caring individuals there are! Two amazing volunteers who have come to Family House are husband and wife Paul and Leslie Radcliffe. Paul and Leslie have become regulars several times a month at Family House by hosting monthly family dinners, helping on Saturday volunteer days, and providing event support at Family House fundraisers.

Leslie Radcliffe began volunteering with Family House when she took over managing an online group called Giving Tree through the website Leslie plans and organizes different volunteer opportunities with non-profit organizations throughout the city. In addition to helping at Family House with dinners and Saturday activities, she and Paul have volunteered at Family House’s Young Professional Advisory Council’s 1st Annual Shipwrecked boat party in 2012. With volunteers such as Leslie and Paul, the event raised over $17,000 for Family House. Leslie will also be volunteering at the Bubbles & Bling event in November 2013.

Thank you so much to Leslie and Paul for your dedication to the families staying at Family House. You thoughtful meals and help at events and on the weekends enable Family House to continue to provide the services we offer! We are so lucky to have such amazing community support!

Get involved with Family House! Learn more at 

Monday, October 28, 2013

20th Annual Jordan & Kyra Memorial Golf Tournament

 Perfect weather, good friends, and a great cause: the 20th Annual Jordan and Kyra Memorial Golf Tournament on Friday, October 18th. Picture getting together with 150 of your golf buddies for your annual day-in-the-sun, all benefiting the Jordan & Kyra Memorial Foundation.  The Jordan & Kyra team went all-out with decorations at the Seascape Golf Club in Aptos, California - including photo boards with pictures from the last 2 decades.
The Jordan & Kyra Memorial Foundation was created in memory of Jordan Stuart and Kyra Pillsbury, and raises money for brain tumor research, and to provide free housing at Family House in San Francisco. Both Jordan and Kyra, along with their families, were guests at Family House before they lost their battles with cancer.  This annual event is a great way to cherish their memories, and keep their playful spirits alive through hope, dignity, and comfort of families currently undergoing treatment for cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.

Congratulations to the Jordan & Kyra team for putting on such a successful event, and to all of the donors, volunteers, and attendees - this event shines because of you!

To see more event photos, visit:

To learn more about the Jordan & Kyra Memorial Foundation, visit:

Monday, October 21, 2013

Giving Comfort

Family House is a proud distribution partner of Giving Comfort, a program that provides free "comfort kits" to cancer patients nationwide. These wonderful kits are tailored to the needs of cancer patients, with goodies like a warm blanket, a stuffed animal, games, crayons, and animal crackers - items designed to help the physical and emotional comfort of patients while they go through the unpleasantness (and boredom) of cancer treatment. Thank you, Giving Comfort, for sharing love and coziness to kids in need!

Sign up to learn more about Giving Comfort at:

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Family House Partners with Coach Art

Family House is very excited with our new partnership with Coach Art - this program is great in so many ways - it offers an ongoing experience for talented volunteers who want to help sick kids and their siblings in recreational activities. This is an opportunity to work with a child over a long period of time, rather than a one-time volunteer experience.

Coach Art gives volunteer teachers an opportunity to see their students grow and thrive, and to see how they are really impacting the students' lives. On the flip side, it gives students a regular opportunity to do something creative that interests them; it's dedicated attention, and something to look forward to each week.

We love that Coach Art includes siblings, too, since the whole family is affected by one child's illnesses.  For longer stays at Family House, families are away from home for months at a time. Kids are pulled away from their regular community of school and friends (and teams and art and music classes), and may not have this kind of outlet available to them through Child Life Services at the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.  Child Life provides a wonderful complement of services to patient families, but they simply can't recreate all the comforts of home.

Thank you, Coach Art Mentors for helping to bring a bit of home to Family House kids!

Get involved with Family House! Learn more at

Monday, September 30, 2013

Volunteer Spotlight: Violet Banta

The Family House staff knows a friendly voice when they pick up the phone and a cheerful voice says, "Hello, Darling!" This is none other than the self-titled "Queen of Irving Street," Violet Banta. Violet is 86 years old and has lived in the Inner Sunset District for 52 years. She is a true volunteer all-star as far as Family House is concerned!

Violet has committed to soliciting donations from neighbors and businesses near and far on behalf of Family House. She has collected donations of food, clothing, and toys for families; auction items for fundraising events; and monetary donations, too. Local businesses that Violet has brought on to "team Family House" include Park Chow, Social Brewery, Andronico's, Nopalito, Walgreens, Chloe's Closet, and many more! Chloe's Closet are her downstairs neighbor's, so she often brings bags of clothes for babies and children that Chloe's cannot use. Violet first found out about Family House through Bobby "The Bunny" Thomas, who hosts an annual Easter party at Family House.

When Violet is not fundraising on behalf of Family House, she loves to tap dance, eat Filipino food, and volunteers with a veterans charity. Thank you, Violet, for all of your hard work! We love you, and Family House wouldn't be the same without you!

Get involved with Family House! Learn more at 

Update! How I Got Involved with Family House by Erika Shue

What sorts of Family House activities have you been involved with since you started volunteering here?
When I first started volunteering at Family House in November 2011, I had a weekly volunteer shift on Friday mornings.  I did a lot of checklists - making sure the families on every floor had what they need (toilet paper, laundry detergent, food label stickers, etc.)  I joined the Family House Young Professionals Advisory Council when my schedule no longer allowed for a weekly volunteer shift.  As a YPAC member, I helped put together family activity nights.  The YPAC Family Activity Nights included snacks and a seasonal craft.

Are there any events/experiences that stand out for you?
One of my favorite experiences at Family House was making valentines at the February YPAC Family Activity Night.  This is a special memory for me because my friend, Steven, and his family joined us.  Steven is the reason why I started volunteering with Family House - while he was receiving treatment at UCSF, his family stayed at Family House.  It was wonderful to not only see my friend healthy, but also see him and his family providing peer support to the families.

What do you like best about being involved with YPAC?
The people - YPAC members, Family House staff, volunteers, and the families. I feel very lucky to be around such wonderful people.

What's coming up next for YPAC, and what is the long-term future of YPAC as you see it?
YPAC's 2nd Annual Shipwrecked on the Barbary Coast was a few weeks ago, on September 21st - what a great night!

I am so excited to see what the future holds for YPAC, especially once Family House moves to Mission Bay.  Shipwrecked is sure to continue to be one of YPAC's main events.  In addition, I hope to see YPAC have move direct involvement in the House.

Camp Okizu offers summer-camp experiences for kids with cancer and their families. Some Family House families have had life-changing experiences at Okizu.  How did you get involved with them?
There was a summer camp job fair in the Student Union at Sacramento State University.  Since I got out of class early and had a few extra minutes before meeting my friends, I thought, "Why not check it out?"  I was just about to leave when I met Grams and Mold (we have camp names at Okizu - mine is Pumpkin).  I can't remember exactly what they told me about camp, but I remember walking away thinking "I want to be a part of that!"  Okizu wasn't something I actively sought out.  I just happened to be at the right place, at the right time, and I am so thankful for that.

What was a favorite experience/memory at Camp Okizu?
Baseball lunch is my favorite camp event.  We eat hot dogs, dress up in our favorite baseball gear, and dance to music.  I usually like to dance, but one summer I skipped out on the dancing to sit with a couple of kids who didn't feel like dancing.  It was wonderful watching everyone dance.  They were all having so much fun; you would never know that they were affected by childhood cancer.

Have you ever met any Family House kids/families there?
This summer I met a camper who stayed at Family House.  Hearing how highly he spoke of Family House made me feel proud to be a Family House volunteer.

To learn more about volunteering with Family House, or about our Young Professionals Advisory Council, click here:

To learn more about Camp Okizu, click here:

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival Recap - September 14th and 15th

The sun was shining, the chocolate was flowing… well, it was a little melty, anyway (see the previous comment about the sun), but that didn't stop anybody from having an amazing time at the 18th Annual Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival on Beach street.

With the America's Cup racing boats behind us on the water, the foot traffic was better than usual this year. We talked with hundreds of chocolate fans - Bay Area natives, chocolate enthusiasts from across the country, and even visitors from as far away as Canada and Europe! (Now, these folks are REALLY dedicated to their chocolate addiction!)
Family House volunteers and staff were invited by our friends at Personality Hotels to share their booth on Sunday. The event's proceeds benefit Project Open Hand, a San Francisco nonprofit that is dedicated to feeding people with life-threatening illnesses; and so we were excited to have an opportunity to tell event attendees about the Family House mission - providing free, temporary housing to families of children with life-threatening illnesses. It was a great way to tell LOTS of people about Family House, and make new friends.

We talked with everyone who came by about Family House, and about Personality Hotels' new "Save Me, San Francisco" hotel package.  Personality Hotels came up with this great idea to help support Family House. When you stay at one of their fantastic boutique San Francisco hotels, you can add on the "Save Me, San Francisco" package, which includes a bottle of Train's award-winning Soul Sister Pinot Noir, two wine-pairing bars of Ghirardelli/Save Me, San Francisco Chocolate, late checkout (after your night on the town!), and a direct cash donation to Family House.

 This package brings together support and love from Personality Hotels and from the Save Me, San Francisco Wine Company - what could be better?  Chocolate Festival VIPs had a chance to taste some Save Me, San Francisco Wine in the Cadillac Wine and Chocolate Pavilion - and event volunteers there were able to tell the story about how rock band Train found Family House and how they've been incredible supporters ever since!  If chocolate equals love, man, this day was one serious love fest!

Big shout outs to Personality Hotels, Ghirardelli Chocolate, Train, and the Save Me, San Francisco Wine Company, and to all our friends that we saw at the chocolate festival - Three Twins Ice Cream, the San Francisco Bulls, and of course, Project Open Hand and all our new friends that we made that day!

Ready to book your stay at a Personality Hotel? Click here to add a Save Me, San Francisco package!

You can get involved with Family House! Learn more at

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month! Family House supports families of children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses being treated at the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.  With your support, we provide comfort, community, courage, and dignity, cost-free to all families.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Volunteer Spotlight: Lauren Kahn

Lauren Kahn has been an invaluable asset to the Family House business office this semester. As a Volunteer Lead, she has been spending 8 hours a week helping the business office with event planning, processing donations, and writing thank you letters to our donors. Lauren has been experiencing the behind-the-scenes action of how a non-profit runs. She was also instrumental in coordinating volunteers at our annual Cabernet for Connoisseurs event in February.

Lauren, however, is no stranger to working with children, as she has volunteered at Children's Hospital of Orange County, volunteered in the ER of Garden Grove Hospital, and will volunteer at St. Mary's Hospital in the skilled nurse department. She hopes to go into a career involving children and medicine.

In her spare time, she loves baking, cooking, yoga, and zumba. Lauren has taken the role of being the bright, shining face in the office, welcoming families and helping them navigate the city, or answer questions about the house. Lauren, we love your dedication to our families and the work you do at Family House! Thank you, we wouldn't be the same without you!

You can get involved with Family House! Learn more at

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Family House Short Video

This video features Family House staff and families, and doctors from the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital, and is a great look into the mission of Family House.

Click here to learn more about Family House families:  

Monday, August 19, 2013

More Than a Hat, an interview with Brenda Orr

How did you first hear of Family House, and why did you decide to get involved?

I first heard about Family House when one of the teachers at Toro Park School (in Salinas, California) asked the staff if they could donate caps in the month of December to give to Family House.  When I went shopping, I could only afford 1-2 caps; [but I realized] I could pick out a pattern and sew caps a lot cheaper.  That was the start of my fleece cap campaign.  I’ve been making them ever since.

Fleece hats are your signature, how do you come up with the patterns and designs?

The pattern is from a pattern book.  There are only 2 pattern pieces.  They’re easy to cut out and easy to sew.  I buy fabric from a store in Morgan Hill that gives me discounts.  I buy fabric about once a month.  I love the old town Morgan Hill, so I treat myself to a trip downtown and visit my favorite shops.

When I make my caps, I usually make 20-30 or more.  I try to make an equal number of boys and girls caps.  I also make various sizes.

What do you do when you’re not making hats for Family House?
I am currently trying to get involved with the “Look Good, Feel Better” program through the American Cancer Society.  I like to make hats for ladies.  I have 3 different styles that I sew.

I am newly retired from teaching.  I am able to sew, swim, hike, read, take small trips, volunteer, and update my condo.

Last thoughts?
I’m real impressed with Family House.  The way they treat their patients and families is wonderful.  They’re organized and inspired.  Keep up the good work!

You can get involved with Family House! Learn more at