Tuesday, December 27, 2016

1 Second Every Day

We put together this fun video using the 1 Second Every Day app - it's a great glimpse into the wonderful craziness that is Family House! Thank you all for an incredible year!

Monday, December 12, 2016

12 Days of Christmas - 8 Nights of Hanukkah

Help us celebrate the season with our 12 Days of Christmas - 8 Nights of Hanukkah wish list drive! Each day from 12/13 through 12/31, we are highlighting items that our families need now and throughout the year.

Purchase items from our Amazon Smile wishlist, or use it as inspiration for shopping at your local store. Thank you!


Sign up to receive 12 Days of Christmas/ 8 Nights of Hanukkah emails - send a note to jkotfica@familyhouseinc.org and put "12 Days of Christmas - 8 Nights of Hanukkah Signup" in the subject line. Thank you for supporting our families!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Naje: Songs of Hope

SF singer-songwriter Naje starts ‘Songs Of Hope’ to benefit Family House this Christmas season 

SF singer-songwriter Rebecca Reuther, aka Naje, started “Songs of Hope” in honor of her daughter, Sophia. Sophia was born with a congenital heart defect and underwent open heart surgery over Christmas last year at the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. In celebration of her daughter’s 1-year open heart anniversary, Naje is donating 50% of her download sales to Family House to help buy Christmas gifts for the families of seriously ill children.

Download Naje’s latest release New Day at https://goo.gl/Xs1Nrl or find Naje on YouTube: https://youtu.be/TAgDvYH7k5k

Monday, November 28, 2016

Give Dignity this Holiday Season

Family House is the only home Joseph has ever known. He has been staying at Family House since he was weeks old, and he will be turning 4 years old this February.

Joseph stays at Family House with his mother, Nina, and his two teenage sisters, Emily and Denise, while his father Daniel works in LA. Daniel comes to SF as often as he can.

Joseph and his family have come to know our Hospitality Services team like family, and other children staying at Family House, like Edrey, as good friends.

Joseph continues to be in and out of the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital for treatments related to Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome, but his prognosis is excellent.

Give Dignity to a Family House family. Donate today: familyhouseinc.org/GivingTuesday

Monday, November 21, 2016

Volunteer Stories: Brian Lee

Brian Lee has been volunteering at Family House for several years, and has a wonderful outlook on life! Hear from him why he volunteers at Family House!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

We Run with Kaitlyn - a Fundraiser for Family House

Shelly Burr is a Family House mom - she stayed with us in 2009 while undergoing a clinical trial at UCSF to treat her in-utero daughter’s spina bifida. In honor of her daughter, Shelley is doing the “We Run with Kaitlyn” fundraiser, with a goal of raising $20,000 for Family House! So far, she’s raised over $5,000! - thank you to Shelley and her wonderful family and community! Learn more about their fundraiser at http://www.werunwithkaitlyn.com/ and watch a great video they made featuring Kaitlyn: https://youtu.be/7YA8HOa8v9U

Q: Where were you living when you Kaitlyn was diagnosed with Spina Bifida?
A: Humble, TX (a suburb of Houston)

Q: Is she your first/only child?
A: No, she is our third. Damon is our oldest -11, Audrey is 9, and Kaitlyn is 7. 

Q: Can you tell me about the MOMS study?
A: MOMS stands for "Management of Myelomeningocele Study." It was a clinical trial that tested whether a prenatal (in utero) surgery to repair myelomeningocele (the birth defect more commonly known as spina bifida) was worth the risk. The surgery involves taking the fetus out (partially) to repair/close the lesion on the spine, then put her back in for the duration of the pregnancy. The risks are many, but the most concerning was the risk of premature delivery, since the uterus is compromised by the surgery, the babies are almost always delivered pre-term. But the potential benefits are also promising, so they created a clinical trial to study it. Half of all participants were randomized to the prenatal group, and the other half were randomized to a control group (which meant simply waiting until delivery and then doing the surgery after birth, which is the normal practice with spina bifida).

Q: What was it like when you first came to Family House?
A: We were in quite a whirlwind at the time, [with Shelly] having recently undergone a very invasive and painful surgery. We had stayed at a hotel for about a week while we waited for a room to open up at Family House, and that hotel room was pretty cramped and difficult, with no kitchen or comforts of home. Finally arriving at Family House was great, as it gave us so much more peace of mind, knowing that we were going to stay there for the next few months. Having a stable place to stay, where our older two children were welcome, was an enormous blessing during the hardest time in our life.

Q: Do you have any especially nice Family House memories from that time to share?
A: The best part was the friendships we made. It was a blessing to be around so many other people who were going through some very difficult times as well, and we were able to support one another. In our case, the condition that Kaitlyn would have was certainly still scary and worrisome, but we also met other families that were going through things that were more painful, and that really helped us get perspective. In a way, by interacting with other families who needed our friendship and support as much as (or more than) we needed from them, it helped us to not be so caught up in our own self-pity and stress; we were able to reach out beyond ourselves and feel like we all were going to get through this together. The staff there were always kind, always compassionate. We felt so loved.

Q: What has Kaitlyn been through since she was born, in terms of treatment and therapy?
A: She has done so much better than her original prognosis predicted. That prenatal surgery was the only surgery she has ever had; she still has bladder and bowel issues, and we catheterize four or five times daily and do an enema every evening. Most kids with spina bifida have dozens of surgeries throughout their lives; Kaitlyn has been very blessed. She has done a lot of physical therapy over the years, started crawling at 1 and walking at 2 1/2, and can now even run on the treadmill (fastest mile was 17 minutes). Academically she is below average but not too far; she's now in first grade and does some extra tutoring on the side, and we hope she will be able to keep up.

Q: How is she now?
A: She is fantastic. She is healthy and happy, has friends, goes to school. She still does physical therapy, but otherwise is a very normal child with a silly sense of humor, and is a fun, cute and happy member of our family.

Q: Can you tell me about the idea for the “We run for Kaitlyn” fundraiser?
A: Originally it came about because I was planning to participate in a marathon and heard about a charity challenge offered by Reason2Race, where participants who were running with a fundraising cause could compete for and win some extra prize money. Our thoughts immediately turned to raising money for the national Spina Bifida Association. We called it "We Run For Kaitlyn" mostly because she represented all children with spina bifida and we were doing it for all of them.

Q: How is that changing now that it is “We run WITH Kaitlyn?
A: As Kaitlyn has grown older she has gotten better at walking and now running on the treadmill. She is quite ambulatory and is old enough now where she could do the 2K, which is the shortest distance offered at The Woodlands marathon event. We thought it would be a fun idea to have her participate and make this about all of us running for something else. Family House stood out to us as a charitable cause that we could all support, especially since it was such a part of our lives. 

Q: Do you have any advice for a family whose child has just been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness?
A: Yes: first of all, that you are not alone. It probably feels so overwhelming and scary and unfair at first. The best way to get through all of those crushing emotions is to connect with other people. Talking to a live person, whether by phone or online, can bring some understanding and sympathy from people who know what you are going through. It can make things worse if you just try to handle it alone, looking at scary pictures or stories of faceless strangers on the internet. So if you try to find new friends, look for and find new groups on Facebook and reach out to people, you will find so many people who have some idea of what you are going through and have the first-hand knowledge and experience and motivation to help you get through it.

 Q: What’s next for Kaitlyn and the rest of the family?
A: Kaitlyn is looking forward to another great year of school as she dives into first grade. She'll keep on doing therapy and extra tutoring. She and the rest of the family are also going to be putting in a lot of time and effort into a bunch of fundraising efforts as we lead up to the races on March 3 and 4 of next year. In a year or two, we hope she can learn to catheterize by herself, which will help her become more self-sufficient. She will keep on growing and becoming more independent and we have high hopes for her.  Our time in San Francisco changed the trajectory of her life, and for that we will forever be thankful.

Learn more about their fundraiser at http://www.werunwithkaitlyn.com/

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Time Lapse Construction of the Nancy and Stephen Grand Family House

The last time lapse video of the construction of the Nancy and Stephen Grand Family House - our home away from home in Mission Bay is finally complete, with the installation of the orange metal screens on the front of the building. Hooray!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Co-Founder Dr. Art Ablin: Happy 90th Birthday!

Happy Birthday to Family House co-founder Dr. Arthur Ablin! As a leader in the field of Pediatric Oncology, Dr. Ablin has been treating young patients since the 1950’s. We celebrate his legacy and thank him for his vision of creating a sanctuary that is free to all families during their child’s treatment. Dr. Ablin’s compassion, focus on our mission, and unwavering dedication to Family House for the past 35 years has produced a model of community that we celebrate this day and every day of the year – from all of us and the over 35,000 families that have stayed at Family House, Art, thank you for your remarkable leadership.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Family House is Hiring!

Family House is hiring! See the job description for Hospitality Services Coordinator - be part of our amazing team! 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to Director of Family Services, Paul Goold! “Father Paul” is the calming force at Family House, always available to listen and to remind you to prioritize self-care! Thank you, Paul, for always taking such good care of everyone at Family House!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Volunteer Spotlight: Linda & Steve Hawkins

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 Linda and Steve Hawkins. Linda and Steve have become weekly volunteers at Family House by helping in our new administrative office in Mission Bay.

Both have been working closely with staffers on various projects. Linda has helped reach out to our new Mission Bay neighbors to introduce Family House, as well as format descriptions for volunteer positions in our new home. Steve has been helping with the image archive project – processing and organizing 30 years’ worth of photos that other volunteers recently digitized. He’s been incredibly helpful – applying logic and care to the project so that we can use this imagery for our 35th Annual Gala and for years to come!

Thank you so much to Linda and Steve for your dedication to the families staying at Family House. Your help with events, administrative tasks, and overall positive demeanor enable Family House to continue to provide the services we offer!

We are so lucky to have such amazing community support!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Brian Lee: Rockstar Volunteer

Good luck to rockstar volunteer Brian Lee as he heads off to the UCLA School of Dentistry! As a USF student, Brian spent a semester with Family House volunteering for his service learning credit. After graduation, he came back to help out in the office before moving to start grad school. We wish you all the best at your next chapter in life, and we know that you’re going to be a wonderful dentist! Than you for all of your incredible hard work, Brian - we love you!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Volunteer Spotlight: 2016 Summer High School Volunteers

Summer is one of the best times of the year at Family House – the house is full of laughter, fun, and excitement! Part of the reason for this is the Summer High School Volunteer Program. Each summer, 15-20 high school volunteers come to the house twice a week and provide house support, help with baking, arts and crafts, and other fun projects for the families at Family House. Our amazing high school volunteers can earn up to 80 volunteer hours over the course of the summer.

This year our volunteers hosted a Pok√©mon-Go adventure, trying to “catch-em-all” with a number of our families. In addition, our volunteers made thank you cards, assembled patio furniture for the courtyard, inventoried kitchenware in our eight kitchens, helped plan the end of summer carnival and BBQ, as well as creating the carnival game posters.  The carnival and BBQ was so marvelous that families are still talking about it! During the carnival, families played games, won special prizes, and enjoyed delicious food.

Thank you Emma Ng, Kyle Mach, Jesse Huang, Jason Jang, Jovita Ramirez, Ryan Santos, Sharon Hsu, Sophia Ladwiniec, Michael O'Bryan, Ry Goodwin, Lesley Arroyo, Carson Roberts, Marisa Navarro, Elizabeth Wagner, Vincent Garcia-Zunno, Miles Maloney, Alyssa Tabucao, Lauren McCormick, Alena McGrew, Scott Brasesco, and Eric Sun! This summer wouldn’t have been the same without you!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Donor Spotlight: Josh Hornthal and the Hornthal Family Foundation

Do you remember how you first heard about Family House?
When I was turning 13, a big part of the “bar mitzvah season” process at Emanu-El was exploring the broader non-profit community in San Francisco, getting exposed to organizations doing really important work that you might not otherwise come across in your day-to-day life. So while Family House was one of many organizations I came across, it really stuck out and I wanted to get involved. It was eye-opening to see these families make massive sacrifices and uproot themselves and moving to be closer to the help that their son, daughter, brother, or sister needed, and I wanted to do what I could to help make their temporary living situation feel like a home.

Can you tell me about your Bar Mitzvah fundraiser?
I remember putting a card in my Bar Mitzvah invitations that basically told people about the idea of providing video game setups for Family House and said that my ideal bar mitzvah present would be if they donated to this project. 13 year old me was hoping for a few hundred dollars, enough to buy a console and some games, but our friends and family were big fans of the idea and really generous, so I wound up with a little over $3,000 to fund the project, which was way more than I was expecting.

What inspired your recent donation of video games and controllers through the Hornthal Family Foundation?
I heard from my parents that Family House had an amazing new facility and I wanted to see it for myself. I moved to Vancouver just over a year ago, so we made a plan to visit during my next trip home. We heard that with the upgrade to the new facility there was also an upgrade to the video game consoles; fortunately somebody else picked up where I left off and donated all new hardware. But a new console is only as good as the games you have to play on it, so we wanted to provide a library of games that could keep anyone entertained, no matter what genre of games you preferred.

Sounds like you’ve always been passionate about video games. Is there a specific thing about them that you find so appealing?
For me, it was always about sports video games and the way they let me engage with my favorite teams and players. For example, the 49ers only play once a week for a few months during the year. But video games meant the season never had to end. (And I could put together a winning season with the Niners…unlike our most recent season…)

What are you up to now?
Oddly enough, I wound up in the video game industry and work for EA Sports. I live in Vancouver and work out of our EA Vancouver studio doing product marketing for EA SPORTS FIFA, our soccer (or football) game.

If you knew someone looking to support a nonprofit, what would you tell them about Family House to encourage them to support us?
It’s hard to not be passionate about Pediatric Cancer, but people quickly focus on finding the cure and rarely think about the families and the kids who are battling right this minute while the search for the cure continues. Curing cancer should absolutely be everyone’s end goal, but we can’t forget about the families and the kids who are impacted right now. When a child or sibling is going through cancer treatment, the last thing any family should have to worry about is where they’re going to sleep, how they’re going to get to the hospital, or where their next meal is going to be. Nothing but a full recovery will feel like a win for the family, but Family House does everything they can to make the toughest situation for a family as navigable and comfortable as possible.

Thank you, Josh, for all you've done for Family House families throughout the years - we're so lucky to count you among our donors! Learn more at familyhouseinc.org.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Rockstar Volunteer: Caroline Mierzwa

Caroline Mierwza is a senior at Carmel High School who interned at Family House during the summer of 2016. She has always had a passion for volunteering, and it showed through her extraordinary service. She plans on being a pediatrician, and from our time with her, we know she will be incredible.

During her time at Family House, she mastered multiple roles, including conducting orientations with new families, guiding tours with visitors, leading volunteer groups, and even directing her peers in our Summer High School Volunteer Program.  She became so skilled in each department of Family House that we began to view her as part of the staff.

Caroline loves to cook, paint, draw, read, and hike, and she brought those talents to Family House. She even hosted a Family Dinner for our families, preparing the entire meal from scratch. She developed into such a reliable asset that we all (families included!) came to depend on her. Caroline’s service was invaluable - thank you, Caroline!

Learn more about volunteering at Family House at http://www.familyhouseinc.org/volunteer.html

Monday, July 25, 2016

Volunteer at Family House

Have you ever considered volunteering at Family House? This video explains why volunteers make a difference in our community, what opportunities exist, and what is involved in signing up to volunteer at Family House. Learn more at familyhouseinc.org/volunteer

Monday, July 11, 2016

Spider-Man Visits Family House

Thank you to Heart of a Hero for bringing Spider-Man to Family House! Everyone loved meeting their favorite web-slinging superhero! He shared toys and coloring books with the kids, took pictures, and even taught a few budding superheroes the right technique for throwing webs to defeat bad guys. The Serenite Foundation hosted an awesome Spider-Man themed dinner (complete with Spidey cupcakes) that everyone devoured. Superheroes unite! See more photos at https://www.facebook.com/148667470276/photos/?tab=album&album_id=10157007765640277

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Buster Posey Meet & Greet

Thank you to our friends at the San Francisco Giants for arranging an awesome meet and greet with Buster Posey at AT&T Park! Families got to spend some time with Buster and Kristen asking questions, signing autographs, and taking pictures, and then got to see the walk off win against the Phillies in incredible third baseline seats! So cool!