Monday, December 29, 2014

Starbucks #603: Rockstar Volunteers!

Cole Munoz, a longtime Family House volunteer, had a brainstorm this holiday season that she named Jeans for Joy. As a manager of Starbucks #603 (at 74 New Montgomery Street in downtown SF), she encouraged her team to donate to Family House so they could wear jeans to work instead of the usual uniform. She also posted signs in-store to encourage customers to donate, and to help spread the word about the Family House mission.

Cole’s idea spread like wildfire through the Starbucks districts in San Francisco, and all told, 33 independent stores participated, raising funds for Family House families.

Cole first got involved with Family House through Director of Volunteer Programs Greg
Mora - the pair have been friends since high school. Cole has volunteered at fundraising events for the past 4 years, and she took the initiative to do something more personal this year. We hope Jeans for Joy will become a regular holiday Starbucks tradition!

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:

Monday, October 27, 2014

Volunteer Spotlight: Tricia Redor

Tricia Redor first heard about Family House through the Psychology Practicum class at the University of San Francisco, as do many of our USF volunteers. She was moved to help families and their children going through serious illness.

Tricia started helping Family House through managing group projects for the Volunteer Program, such as showing new volunteers where all the supplies are kept, and training them on setting up donations during our monthly give-away days. She has been instrumental in helping the Operations staff with house projects that include laundry, painting, cleaning carpets in bedrooms, and other necessary tasks to make sure the house is a clean and safe environment for immune-compromised children and their families.

Tricia has also given her time to working as a tutor, mentor, kitchen helper, office aide, and research assistant. She has experience working with children and homeless populations: she has volunteered at Glide and Project Open Hand, where she helped prepare and serve meals to those in need.

She spends her free time drawing, painting, running outdoors, listening to music, and going on adventures with her family and friends.

Thank you Tricia for caring for the families of Family House all semester!

Learn more about volunteering at Family House at

Monday, October 20, 2014

UCSF Mission Bay Day in the Life Simulation

I don’t think anyone has ever had this much fun in a hospital!

To help the doctors, nurses, and support staff get ready for the opening of the new UCSF Hospitals at Mission Bay, last week was the first of several “Day in the Life” simulations, where volunteers came together as patients and family members in real-life scenarios.  Family House staffers (and about 30 other volunteers) got to check out the new hospital, be pretend patients and parents, work with our partners at Child Life, and even got to see the helicopter (Bear Force One) take off from the helipad. We’re so excited about all the ways that this new facility is going to be able to serve thousands of Family House families every year!

Click here to read about the new Nancy & Stephen Grand Family House that is currently under construction, just blocks from the new UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital at Mission Bay:

Monday, October 13, 2014

Staff Spotlight: Susan Neff

How did you come to be at Family House?
In 2006, I was introduced to Family House by a Kathleen Toney, who was Board Chair at the time. I knew her as a friend and from community relations at our church in San Rafael - St. Raphael’s Church. Alexandra, the Family House CEO, had expressed desire to hire a development person for Family House. Kathleen directed Alexandra to my work at St. Raphael’s, where I was their Development Director. Alexandra and I met each other at Kathleen’s home and hit it off perfectly! We have a lot in common which then led to my working at Family House starting in July of 2006.
How has Family House changed since you first started?
Family House has grown—exponentially. In 2006, we only had one Volunteer Coordinator - part-time - and we didn’t have much of a database. We started with Donor Perfect (our old database program) soon after I joined the Family House team. We had no website, no Facebook following, and we just had the one small room for the three of us in the business office. We had about five people on staff and now we have more than doubled in size. Our database, donors, and families served has quadrupled in numbers; our general operating budget has expanded from under one million to [when we get to Mission Bay] 2.5 million. Our endowment has developed from 1.3 million to now over 5 million dollars.
What are some of your favorite Family House memories?
One of my favorite memories is when we used to all be in the small office, and one of the families staying here had a set of twin girls and a boy, and the kids would get so bored they would come down to the office and help us file. We were so behind on our filing that the kids would come help us, but in order to file, you have to know the alphabet! Since that was a little difficult for them, I made a poster for the kids to use as a reference, and it was so adorable. This particular family was here for months and it was just precious that the kids came down to the office to help us. My favorite administration memories come from kids who are staying with us coming down and hanging out with us in the office. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Architects Meeting

As the structure of the new Nancy and Stephen Grand Family House is now finalized, the architects are up to the interior design, including colors, materials, and furniture. Family House staff were able to meet with Richard Stacy of Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects for input on design elements and to talk through some materials decisions (which flooring is better in kitchens versus bathrooms, etc.) which have already been made. So exciting that it’s all coming together!

Read the latest on the Nancy and Stephen Grand Family House at

Monday, September 29, 2014

Volunteer Spotlight: Joey Jordan

Family House has a strong and mutually beneficial relationship with the University of San Francisco. We have had a number of volunteers come to volunteer each semester through Service-Learning classes, as well as community clubs on campus.     For the first time, Family House has its own ACE student for the 2014-2015 school year. ACE stands for Advocates for Community Engagement, and is focused on “developing socially responsible, civically-engaged student leaders who facilitate quality service-learning experiences for all stakeholders and advocate for the common good of the community” per the USF ACE website. During the 2012-2013 school year, ACEs managed and led reflective activities for over 200 service-learning students.

Family House’s amazing ACE student, Joey Jordan, will be working with 14 USF students this semester, as well as providing his own service hours to help Family House at events, manage volunteers, and even TEACH Zumba lessons to the families. Joey is very inspired by Family House and is excited to support in any way he can.

He was drawn to Family House as he can understand how hard it is for a family going through treatments when they are so far from their own families.
When Joey is not volunteering or working on school work, he enjoys running in Golden Gate Park, spending time admiring the scenery, as well as volunteering at various non-profits including Project Open Hand, St. Vincent de Paul, and Raphael House.

Thank you Joey for all of your help this year at Family House!

You can get involved with Family House! Learn more at