Monday, August 19, 2019

Rockstar Volunteer:  Mari Goldstein

Mari Goldstein brings incredible energy to Family House each time she visits.  She leads weekly yoga classes for the families that stay at Family House and understands the importance of physical, mental, and spiritual exercise.  We are lucky to have Mari share  her knowledge and expertise with our families.

As a yoga volunteer, Mari teaches classes for all interested family members that would like to participate. She even welcomes our younger children that want to experience her classes.

Mari has been a part of Family House since April 2018 and continues to make an incredible contribution to the organization.  Whenever Mari is present, she warmly greets families, staff members, and visitors.  We want to thank Mari and show our appreciation for her talents and all she brings to Family House.

Thank you Mari!

Monday, August 12, 2019

Home Depot Volunteer Day at Family House

Wow! A huge thank you to The Home Depot Foundation and the 80+ (!!!) employees who undertook a major project volunteering at Family House! We’ve been in the Nancy & Stephen Grand Family House for 3 years, and this is the first significant “home improvement” project yet - and who better to do it than the experts from Home Depot? Volunteers repainted the baseboards and accent walls throughout our 92,000 square foot building - a project that took more than a day! While that was happening, other volunteers beautified the courtyard and spruced up the container gardens throughout, with lots of fresh new flowers and plants; and yet others worked on a “picture frames” painting project that will be unveiled later this year. While all this hard work was happening, even more volunteers were hosting a terrific experience for our families - interactive building projects and a great barbecue on the courtyard.

Congratulations to Scott Rustigan, winner of Home Depot’s Angel Award for exceptional service in the community! We know how all you’ve done for Mason and his family has made all the difference in the world, and we’re glad you’re part of the family. Thank you to Amy Hollingshead for connecting your Home Depot family with your Family House family! #teamdepot #homeawayfromhome #family

Click here to see more photos from this wonderful day of service, and click here to watch the video!

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Summer Carnival 2019

What a fun day! Thank you to everyone who made this year's Summer Carnival such a good time! Delicious homemade Mexican lunch from the team at GB Group and ice cream from Clover; entertainment by Boswick the Clown and magician The Amazing Caine; glitter tattoos by Anney Chan; Clo the Clover cow came to visit, as did Team Impact and service-dogs-in-training from Canine Companions for Independence; so many carnival games, prizes, and even stuffed animals made by the Hands On Bay Area teens in the HandsOnTomorrow program! Thank you to the incredible volunteers from Okta, the Family House Summer High School Volunteer program, The Madrone Residences & Madrone staff, with a special shout out to Gina Gorman - together, you brought so much joy and laughter to Family House families - we appreciate each of you!

Watch the fun video or see more photos on Facebook.

Monday, July 22, 2019

National Hospitality House Week 2019

Did you know that Family House is part of the Healthcare Hospitality Network, a group of facilities that provide temporary housing for families who have a person with a significant medical condition?  We are proud to celebrate National Hospitality House Week and toast our colleagues near and far for the support we are able to give to families during the most difficult time of their lives. Consider making a donation today to help support Family House as we support families of children with a life-threatening illness - over 4,000 families stay with us each year, 100% cost-free.

Make a gift today to help support families in the midst of a medical crisis.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Bobby Thomas Birthday Fundraiser for Family House

Happy Birthday to the incomparable Bobby Thomas! Bobby has been “The Bunny” during Easter time at Family House for over 20 years, bringing joy and smiles to all the families, all while raising funds for Family House. For his milestone birthday this year, he decided to throw a big bash at the Folsom Street Foundry, and raised over $10,000 in the process! It’s a testament to just how much people love Bobby! And who wouldn’t?! It’s his life’s mission to bring joy to others, and we have proof that he does that wherever he goes! Thank you, Bobby, for all you do for Family House and for everyone who is lucky to know you!

(If you know and love Bobby and want to donate to Family House in his honor, please click here.)

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

"Here Comes Summer" by Elan Slavin

Here Comes Summer
by Elan Slavin

I can always count on the poet, Shel Silverstein to find the most empathetic, funny, thoughtful way of communicating universal truths.  And the truth is:  Summer is here and if we don’t take a few moments to enjoy it, it will pass as all seasons do.

“Here Comes”

Here comes summer,
Here comes summer,
Chirping robin, budding rose,
Here comes summer
Here comes summer,
Gentle showers, summer clothes
Here comes summer,
Here comes summer-
Whoosh-shiver-there it goes.

Summer can be fun AND summer can be tough for families and kids as everyone’s routines are interrupted.  Kids are on break from school, the weather changes and often times it makes it difficult to play outside and participate in activities that you normally do. Friends and built-in support systems are no longer as “built-in” and available,  and feelings of boredom and isolation become very common.

Here are a few summer time/anytime activities that just might break up the boredom and encourage some summertime fun!
-          Plan a Disney movie marathon
-          Gather a few well- worn items of clothing and TYE-DYE them!
-          Build a fort in your living room!
-          Have breakfast for dinner
-          Star Gaze, of course with a mug of hot chocolate
-          Paint rocks
-          Plan a family Karaoke night
-          Go “camping” in your own backyard
-          On Fridays, eat dessert FIRST for dinner
-          Plant a tree
-          Cook a favorite family recipe together

Summer can be fun for some and rough for others.  It’s always a good reminder to “Put Something In”
Draw a crazy picture,
Write a nutty poem,
Sing a mumble-gumble song.
Whistle through your comb.
Do a loony-goony dance
‘Cross the kitchen floor.
Put something silly in the world
That ain’t been there before.
-Shel  Silverstein

Monday, June 17, 2019

Monthly Birthday Parties

At Family House, we love birthdays! Whether you’re turning 3, 15, 40, or 70, birthdays are something to celebrate! Many Family House families are away from home for extended periods of time, and most acutely feel the sting of being far from home when special days come up. We do everything we can to make Family House a home away from home, and that most definitely includes celebrating holidays and milestones big and small!

In 2018, volunteers from Salesforce took on the task of hosting the Monthly Birthday Pizza Party. Once a month, there’s a big party in the house for everyone who has a birthday: patients, siblings, parents, grandparents - anyone staying with us! There are presents for the kids, and pizza and cupcakes for all! The support that Salesforce volunteers provide is tremendous, and we are grateful that they hosted this party each month all last year, and are continuing the tradition for all of 2019. Thank you, Salesforce, for the many ways you support Family House families year-round!

To learn about ways that you can make a difference at Family House, visit

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

K-PAX Racing Day at Family House

Thank you to the K-PAX Racing Team and Flexport for hosting a wonderful car show & party at Family House! Pro drivers Alvaro Parente, Andy Soucek, Rodrigo Baptista, and Maxime Soulet were in the house with a 2019 Bentley Continental GT3 race car and a street-ready Bentley, showing off the cars, signing autographs, and meeting Family House families. Volunteers from Flexport brought pizza and snacks, car-themed games, and arts and crafts, helped out with the bounce house, and more! Thank you to everyone for making it such an amazing experience - special thanks to Jim Haughey, Darren Law, Brendan Capria, Bentley Motors, Flexport, and the whole K-PAX Racing team! And congratulations to K-PAX on your wins this past weekend at the Blancplain GT World Challenge at Sonoma Raceway!

Friday, June 7, 2019

Meet & Greet with Buster Posey

Thank you to the San Francisco Giants for the amazing opportunity for Family House families to meet Buster Posey and family, and enjoy the baseball game afterwards! This past Sunday, families got to spend time with Buster and the family, asking all kinds of questions about baseball from one of the best players in the MLB! We love how Kristen, Addison, and Lee get so involved in meeting families - and they even brought their pup to meet everyone, too! Thank you to the Poseys and the Giants for caring about Family House families and treating them to this once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Family House Impact

Just released! Read the Fiscal Year 2018 Annual Report - Family House Impact:

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

May is Mental Health Month

May is Mental Health Month by Elan Slavin, MSW

May is here and change is all around us.  The weather is beginning to feel more like Spring, the wild flowers are bold and bright and the school year for some is beginning to wind down.  May is also Mental Health Awareness month.  This month (and hopefully year ‘round) we can continue to increase awareness about all of our mental health needs as individuals and as a country.

The following three websites are resources for various kinds of important information and help when it comes to our own mental health and those we love.  Please note: as always, if you are concerned about yourself or someone you love, please reach out to your doctor or a mental health clinician.

May is here and change is all around us.  I think the poet, Mary Oliver expresses a depth of gratitude for change and new beginnings in a most elegant way.

Why I Wake Early, by Mary Oliver
Hello, sun in my face
Hello, you who make the morning.
And spread it over the fields
And into the faces of the tulips
And the nodding morning glories,
And into the windows of, even, the
Miserable and crotchety-
Best preacher that ever was-
Dear star, that just happens
To be where you are in the universe
To keep us from ever-darkness,
To ease us with warm touching,
To hold us in the great hands of light-
Good morning, good morning, good morning
Watch, now, how I start the day
In happiness, in kindness

Taking a moment to acknowledge your need for help is the ultimate act of kindness we can give to ourselves.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Spider-Man and Spider Gwen Visit

Thank you to Spider-Man and Spider-Gwen from Heart of a Hero for spending a morning at Family House! You brought wagons full of toys for the kids and made lots of new friends! And thank you to the volunteers from Compass for helping to pass out toys, make Spidey-themed arts and crafts, and kick off a fun morning for everyone! Thank you to the volunteers for bringing such positive energy and joy to Family House, making everyone smile!!

Monday, April 22, 2019

Easter Party 2019

Thank you to everyone who helped make this year’s Easter Party so much fun: Bobby the Bunny and friends, Salesforce, the San Francisco Police Department, BayKids Studios, community volunteers, and donors! It takes everyone’s support to put on fun holiday parties like this, so Family House families can relax and enjoy a bit of home while they stay here in San Francisco, and we are grateful to each of you!

Monday, April 8, 2019

National Volunteer Week 2019

To the amazing volunteers at Family House!

I want to take this moment to say thank you for all that you do for our families. With this week being National Volunteer Week, I want to reflect on how meaningful your service is, day in and day out. There are never enough hours in the day, but you, our volunteers, are able to donate your time and efforts to support families in crisis. Whether it's helping serve breakfast each morning; bringing your therapy dog for support; keeping the house disinfected; providing a beautiful family dinner; and everything in between, we absolutely could not provide the level of support that we do without our incredible volunteers.

Last year, we had over 4,200 volunteers support Family House (that is a staff-to-volunteer ratio of 1:140) and the impact is measured not just in numbers, but through the magic and love that is felt every day when you walk through the doors. We know there so many amazing nonprofits out there and you choose to help us. We are incredibly grateful for the love and support you bring to Family House. Thank you on behalf of Family House.

With Love and Appreciation,
Karen Banks

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Spring Has Sprung... Kind of!

Spring Has Sprung... Kind of!
by Elan Slavin, MSW

As we head into April, we’re experiencing a few more precious moments of sunshine than last month.  Our California reservoirs are filled to the brim, but the rain keeps coming. Here are a few suggestions of how to take advantage of the few moments of sunshine.

Maybe start your own veggie garden or plant a few flowers to tend to.  It doesn’t have to be much.  It might be fun to take care of them and watch them grow!

Take a walk or a stroll around your neighborhood.  Take notice of how all of the recent rain has made everything so green!!!

And when the rain just won’t stop:

It might be time to let go of some of our well-used and well-loved items and do some [more] spring cleaning. Sometimes it’s more difficult for parents than kids to go through well-loved clothes that no longer fit or toys that no longer are age appropriate and say goodbye. Spring cleaning is a wonderful time to also model for our kids how to “pay it forward.”
A suggestion: Meet your child in their space like a bedroom, or wherever your child keeps his or her things. Go through each piece of clothing or each toy with your child.  Together, offer that item a hug of gratitude for bringing them comfort, joy, and wonderful memories and decide to donate! Maybe suggest to your child the idea that perhaps someone they know or someone they don’t know could use something THEY loved and used.  You can explain that “paying it forward” would mean giving away something that meant something to you might benefit someone else. Again, letting go is hard, but what a great opportunity to model compassion.

April Rain Song by Langston Hughes
Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
The rain makes running pools in the gutter
The rain plays a little sleep-song on our roof at night-
And I love the rain

Monday, March 25, 2019

24th Annual Cabernet for Connoisseurs

The 24th Annual Cabernet for Connoisseurs raised more funds than ever before to support families of children with life-threatening illnesses! Thank you to the event committee, led by co-chairs Scott Miller and Jeff Smith; the 38 Napa and Sonoma vintners who poured incredible wines; Chef Mourad Lahlou for cooking an amazing dinner; entertainer Kelly James; auctioneer Charles Antin; the 100+ volunteers who helped make it all happen; and to the many, MANY generous donors who made this the most successful Family House fundraiser yet!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Rain Rain Go Away - Rainy Day Activities

Rain! Rain! Go away! Come again some other day…!

While the rain is a good thing for our beloved state and our all-to empty reservoirs, it may be keeping us (and our kids) in doors more than usual. UGH! What to do???

Since Spring is most definitely in the air, maybe it’s time to start some Spring cleaning? Maybe it’s time to renew or reboot some family rituals that may have been delegated to that “back burner.” Here are a few suggestions that may help to make these rainy days a bit more fun.

Spring Cleaning!
Have a quick family meeting. Decide on a few things:

1.       Come to a consensus (as best you can) on which room in your home could really use a thorough cleaning.

2.       Decide who gets to choose the FIRST song that’s played as you clean.  Singing while you clean makes it so much more fun and way more time efficient. Make sure to alternate the family member who gets to choose the song so everyone has fun! Before you know it, the room you chose to clean is spotless and it’s on to the next one!

3.       Make clear what each family members responsibility is while cleaning

4.       Provide safe and easy to use cleaning materials and….

5.       BLAST THE MUSIC-and HAVE FUN!!!

Simon Says - Reboot Family Game Night! 
This might be a fun, indoor, rainy-day game for kids and parents of all abilities. One person is designated “Simon.” (It may be fun to use your child’s name like, “Sarah says”, or “Jonathan says” if they are directing the game) Remember how it’s played?

1.       One person is designated “Simon”, the others are players.

2.       Standing (or sitting) in front of the group, “Simon” tells players what they must do. However, the players must only obey commands that begin with the words “Simon Says.”

3.       Example: If Simon says, “Simon says blink your eyes” then the players must blink their eyes.  But if Simon says, “blink your eyes” and the players obey that command, they’re out of the game.  Why? Because “Simon” didn’t say “Simon Says.”

(Re)Create a Bedtime Ritual

 If you haven’t already, or are in need of something new, create a bedtime routine for yourself and/ or for your child in order to prepare for bed each night. You can get creative and make it work for you. Maybe at a certain time of night, all screens get powered down, and relaxing music is put on at a low volume. Or maybe after your child takes a bath, you meet on your bed for story-time. Or while your child is preparing for bed, you take 5 minutes and take a few deep breaths and offer yourself a hug filled with deep gratitude for having made it through another day.  Sometimes a new ritual or a small change to an old one can be just the thing to make our lives feel a bit refreshed and renewed.

What are your ideas for beating the rainy day blues?

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Hops for Housing 2019

Thank you to the Sirwisa Brewing Collective for once again choosing Family House to be the beneficiary of your SF Beer Week event - Hops for Housing! Sirwisa home brewers formed teams with professional brewers to make unique brews not available anywhere else! Combined with the great performance by Soul Ska, this was the don't-miss Beer Week event!
See more photos

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Book Review: When Your Child is Sick, A Guide to Navigating the Practical and Emotional Challenges of Caring for a Child Who is Very Ill

Book Review: “When Your Child is Sick, A Guide to Navigating the Practical and Emotional Challenges of Caring for a Child Who is Very Ill” Written by Joanna Breyer, PhD

I had the great pleasure of meeting Joanna Breyer last month as she toured Family House.  She was in town as she put it, “to see that this book of hers landed in the hands of the people who would benefit from it the most.”  Ms. Breyer is a psychologist who has worked with children with cancer and their families for over 25 years at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Boston Children’s Hospital. This book is meant to serve as a comprehensive guide for families navigating the most uncertain and difficult circumstances of having a child diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.  She informed me that she intends for the book to be used as a resource guide; as different parts of the book will be relevant to families at different times. The book is presented in three sections.  Part I is on treatment, which includes everything from entering into the medical world, to coping techniques, being a parent to your other children, medications, to stem cell transplants and sibling as donors.  Part II discusses survivorship.  She writes about surviving Cancer, dealing with the emotional effects of a serious childhood illness, healthy living, and transitioning to adult medical care.  In a very compassionate tone, Part III addresses the topic of when your child’s treatment does not work.

Ms. Breyer’s decades of experience and dedication to the families and children she has worked with throughout her career is felt on every page.  It just might be one of those books that finds a home on your shelf to refer to as you manage the multiple practical and emotional complexities of this unimaginably difficult time in your life.  I highly recommend it.

This book review was written by Family House Social Worker Elan Slavin, MSW, as a resource we recommend. It can be purchased here:

Friday, January 18, 2019

A Letter to Family House

January 16, 2019
Kneeland, California

Dear Family House families, staff, and friends,

Happy new year! Since my son finished a three and a half-year course of treatment for leukemia last September, I’ve had some time to reflect on what Tristan and our family went through during that period, and what that period, much of it spent at Family House, means to me. I wanted to share my thoughts with you.

First things first: I have no regrets. Of course, if I were given the choice, I would choose for my toddler son to not develop leukemia. I’d be a nutter otherwise. But I didn’t get to make that choice, and there are lots of things in my life that are not the way they would have been if we had not been through all that we went through. They’re better. Tristan and I share a wonderful closeness; I’m a different person from the one I was before, more confident and willing to take on new challenges that would have been prohibitively intimidating before; and I now have in my life a group of incredible friends whom I would not otherwise have met. Most of these people – warrior moms and warrior kids, I call them – I met at Family House.

Sitting around the dining table at the old Family House in the Sunset District, and later in the sunny, new Mission Bay kitchens, one by one I met people – parents and kids – who were so bravely toughing it out through the most horrendous experiences you can imagine. I saw such love from parents, for example when teenage Bianca’s father stood protectively behind her chair while she told me the story of her double lung transplant. It was like he needed to be as near to her as possible to guard her while she replayed the story, and, if you heard the story, that would make sense. Bianca, you are one tough chick. I felt such kindness from parents who, in solidarity over the fear and uncertainty we faced every day, shared their love with me – I’ll never forget those delicious enchiladas that Kristina, Ivan’s mom, fed me one night. Thank you, Kristina, for your warmth and generosity, and for your husband’s salsa, which was amazing. I saw such strength in warrior moms who were fighting for their kids with every neutrophil and platelet in their mama bodies, and who were finding creative ways to make it all okay. Coco, those henna designs covering your daughter’s bald head were stunning; I’ve never seen anything like it.

I learned and grew with each warrior mom and warrior kid I met, and I’m not the same person I was when Tristan and I began this whole adventure. I know much more about how people suffer, but, more importantly, I know much more about how strong people, including me, can be, and about how much love is out there, and that there is a lot of good in the universe. Thanks, Family House, for connecting me with others who taught me these things.

Much love,

Friday, January 11, 2019

Become a Family House Volunteer Leader

Do you have what it takes to be a Volunteer Leader? 

Family House Volunteer Leaders have the unique opportunity to manage volunteer groups that visit Family House to host meals and other activities which are important for the families staying with us. The leadership role will include training new volunteers, welcoming and orienting group volunteers, completing house tasks, managing volunteer projects, and spending time with the families we serve. 

Interactions with families are essential to our organization and we need your help to lead events that foster impactful moments. Becoming a Volunteer Leader is a fantastic way to meet families, create friendships, learn leadership skills, build your resume, and give back to the local nonprofit community. Volunteer Leaders will have the opportunity to manage volunteer groups and activities during the mornings between 7:30am - 10:30am for breakfast; or evenings between 4:00pm - 7:00pm for dinner. 

We are asking Leaders to commit to 1 shift per week for 6 months (or longer). Ideal candidates are independent, self-starters, flexible, and determined to improve the lives of Family House families.

Volunteers are critical for the success of Family House and your leadership could be crucial to the support we offer our families. Consider becoming a Volunteer Leader and make a lasting impact on our children and families. 

To volunteer at Family House, applicants are required to complete a volunteer application, background check, photo release, and submit immunizations. We work with immunocompromised children and our requirements are for the health and safety of our families.

If you are interested in getting involved, please contact Volunteer Coordinator, Tarence Dixon at 

Thursday, January 3, 2019

2018 Year in Review Video

See some of the highlights of “Family House magic” in action in 2018! We are so grateful to our amazing community for the tremendous support that allows moments like these to happen, making Family House a home away from home for families of children with life-threatening illnesses.