Monday, March 14, 2016

Grand Family House Grand Opening Ribbon Cutting, remarks by Dr. Arthur Ablin, March 2, 2016

Co-founder Dr. Arthur Ablin's remarks at the Grand Opening of the Nancy and Stephen Grand Family House at Mission Bay on March 2, 2016

Please look around and recognize that in just a few days these spaces will be filled by all children with life threatening diseases who are too ill to be cared for in their local communities and who live more than 50 miles from San Francisco. There will be their mothers, fathers, and siblings and grandparents. There will be dedicated staff, social workers, teachers, child life specialists and many volunteers. We are large enough now to care for not just children with cancer but for all children coming to the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital for treatment.

Family House was not an accident. Family House was born out of necessity.

It is a fact that children with rare, serious, life threatening illness must often travel far from home to advanced medical centers to receive life saving treatment that often lasts weeks or months. There is no other choice. Of course, seriously ill children need family members near during times of multiple painful frightening procedures, surgery, and transplantation. Mothers, fathers, siblings and grandparents need to be near their children during these almost unbearable anxiety laden times. Multiple family members need a place to stay. Before Family House, parents slept on floor mats when available alongside cribs and beds, or in waiting room chairs, cars parked in garages, or on the street.

Family House is born out of necessity because parents of children from newborns to adolescence are in their 20s or 30s when they are struggling to meet the demanding financial obligations that go with young families: home mortgages, washing machines. The expense of living for days, weeks, months on repeated occasions can be devastating, unbearable, humiliating and adds immeasurably to the worst of all crises, the possibility of lifelong serious illness or death of a child. Finding a place to live in a strange urban center is difficult and almost always prohibitively expensive. It is a fact there is no insurance that pays the costs for families to live far from their homes for days weeks or months.

Family House was born not only out of necessity but also born out of compassion. Before Family House existed, in the 60’s and 70’s, children with cancer and their families were facing unimaginable hardships. Not only were they shocked by the diagnosis, they were uprooted, often with little advance warning, forced to travel immediately to a new city and hospital, trust unfamiliar doctors and nurses. Living in a strange city removed them from the numerous home community supports we all too often take for granted like school, friends, classmates, religious affiliations and social groups. What families went through was unimaginable.

Family House was born out of compassion and fortunately it was all around.

Almost 35 years ago, I was lucky enough to gather people with great compassion; my wife Debbie, a few exceptionally capable parents of children with cancer, and others. Some are in this audience. John and Ann Leonardo, Barry Grove, Kathleen and Dan Toney, David Joy, Joan Finton, Joe Kushner, Mike Alvarez; still continuing with us after 35 years. Corporate help came from Koret, Bechtel, McKesson and others...

We opened in the fall of 1981, with every Board member active in operations. We started with 9 families of only children with cancer quickly went to 10 families. Knowing these were young, financially stressed families we required no payment. We were always full, always had a waiting list. We expanded with a second House with 24 more spaces so we now care for 34 families, approximately 105 people every night and we are still always full with a waiting list. We have raised our budget every one of the past 34 years. We have provided from our start much more than living space free of cost. We facilitate the opportunity for families in time of some of lives greatest crises to be mutually supportive. They can help each other in ways no others can. Our staff spends hours listening to heart-breaking stories. Compassion, empathy and understanding are our passwords. We provide ball park or museum passes, prepaid gasoline cards, replace bald auto tires, and provided an occasional dinner out for families in extra-ordinary stress.

There always was much more to do. We have dreamt to care for all families, not just families of children with cancer, but all families from outside San Francisco who must travel to our Hospital for medical care. Today starts the fulfillment of that dream. We have comfortable living accommodations for 80 families about 250 people. If you are a child with leukemia, a brain tumor, an infant with congenital heart disease, a pregnant mother with a fetus needing fetal surgery, a 2 pound prematurely born infant, a child with renal, pulmonary or hepatic failure needing a renal, lung or liver transplant if you live more than 50 miles from San Francisco, come to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital you and your family will be welcome at the Stephen and Nancy Grand Family House.

We will be supporting one of the best children’s hospitals in the country, dedicated and helping them to know that families who come from a distance, will find, like the hospital is, one of the finest, if not the very finest, living and supportive care facility for families in the country and free from financial hardship. Patient recruitment from around the country for research studies and teaching will be aided.
With the tireless work of an extraordinary Board, who purchased and oversaw development of this property, were our generous donors and raised more for a total of 42 million, together with an unusually dedicated staff today headed by our remarkable CEO Alexandra Morgan, marks the fulfillment of the dream to care for all families whose children need treatment at the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. Come walk through our fabulous House and partake with us, in this dream come true.

Thank You.

See more photos from the Nancy and Stephen Grand Family House Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at