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

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