Monday, February 24, 2014

Remembering Jordan Stuart - A Fundraiser

Courtney Stuart reached out to Family House in January about doing something to celebrate the memory of her brother, Jordan, who passed away in 1992. We brainstormed some ideas, and Courtney decided to do a gift-card and pillow drive for the families currently staying at Family House, “to help keep his memory alive, and of course to give back to the place that brought such peace and faith to my family.” She raised over $900 in donations that were delivered just in time for Jordan’s birthday, on Valentine’s Day. He would have been 24 years old this year.

Q&A with Courtney Stuart

When did you stay at Family House, and how old were you at the time?

I stayed at Family House between May of 1991 and May of 1992 while my little brother, Jordan, was undergoing chemotherapy and radiation.  He was 2 when he lost his battle and I was 4. Although I only lived at Family House for a year, it was much more than a house to me - It was a HOME.

Even though I was so young, I always wanted to be the only one pushing Jordi’s stroller or holding him. As a 4-year-old, I loved having a baby “of my own” to take care of. After he passed, I wore Jordan’s clothes almost every day. I went from being dressed in pink dresses every day to opting to only wear his blue or red clothes. I actually used his blankets as blankets on my bed until about two years ago.

What do you remember most about staying at Family House?

Well, the whole reason this fundraising drive started for Jordan's birthday is because my dad had sent me a link about Family House. Although I still can't recall Jordan much from my memories (because I was so young at the time), I was somehow able to retain fond memories of Family House... the sounds of the Muni train going by and how the lights used to flicker and slightly dim when it passed, the blue padded basement and all of the games we would play and fun we would have down there (plus we could jump all around and not get hurt because it seemed the whole room was padded)!  I doubt it still looks like that now, but the memories stay the same. Just a lot of subtle memories but all of them made me feel at PEACE.  Family House brought normalcy into my life at a time when my whole family was falling apart.

A year after Jordan passed, in 1993, my father started the Jordan Stuart Memorial Golf Tournament to raise awareness and support for families of children with pediatric cancer. In the early years, I would help out at by babysitting kids in the daycare at the tournament, singing for guests during the banquet dinner, photographing all of the players and events of the day to post on the website, or coordinating and picking up donations for the silent and live auctions, and whatever other tasks were needed.

In 1995, we met Kyra Pillsbury and her family, and she passed away from a brain tumor the following year. I remember thinking how unfair it was and how I couldn't believe TWO kids had died of cancer. Her passing brought two great men together - my dad, and Kyra's uncle, Dave Pillsbury. When Dave joined and it turned into the Jordan AND Kyra golf tournament... it opened many new doors of opportunity on a national level.  The word was spread more, which ultimately led to more donations. Our tournament "family" grew, it became something people anticipated every year- something people traveled great distances to attend. Together as a duo - I’m certain they could accomplish almost anything.

Tell us about the donations drive you organized this year to commemorate Jordan's birthday.

I posted a status on my Facebook page to see how many people might be interested in contributing Safeway gift cards. I honestly thought everybody would ignore the post, or that maybe some close family members might want to help out (even though they already donate every year through our golf tournament). I was shocked when we hit $200 worth of gift cards, so I posted again & stated that I hope we could make a goal of $1,000- I figured maybe then we'd get HALF of the goal. In the end, we raised over $900 worth of gift cards/monetary donations, plus 7 pillows - better than I ever hoped!

What are your plans for the future?

This fundraising drive has been totally inspiring to me and I'm really hoping to make this a yearly thing from now on! I'm sure the needs of Family House will change as the years pass, but I'd love to help out in any way I can. I want the families that are living there to feel the same comfort, hope, love, and inspiration that my family and I felt when we stayed there (and ever since).

Thank you, Courtney and friends, for your generous contributions to the lives of families currently staying at Family House! Your support means so much!

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