Families who stay with us during the holidays are not only taking care of a sick child, but they are far from home and many are unable to celebrate with their friends and family. The Gardner family, for example, spent Christmas at the House while their daughter Maddy underwent chemotherapy for Ewing’s Sarcoma in her left arm. “We were unsure of the outcome or what lay ahead,” says Robin, Maddy’s grandmother. “We were lonely, scared, and almost unbearably sad. We’re from an island off the coast of Alaska so you can only imagine how we felt to be so far away from our family at Christmas.”
However, the House helped the family bridge the gap. “[Being there] gave us as much semblance of normalcy as they possibly could, somehow knowing how desperately we needed that; the big tree in the lobby, making Christmas cookies, a visit from Santa. We remember being completely overwhelmed by the wonderful volunteers – always planning some activity for the children and families, doing everything they could think of to provide a festive atmosphere, always there – always supportive – always encouraging.”
It was the simple things at the House that helped the Gardner family the most. A fresh cup of coffee and a chat with a volunteer at the front desk were essential to getting them through the holidays. Robin says that she sometimes returned from the hospital with a sense of helplessness, but when she entered the House, she was always greeted with smiles and even a hug when needed. “Feeling embraced, secure, loved and protected – THAT is the essence of the House,” she says.
Volunteers and donors make the holidays as special as possible for every one of the 80 families who spend the holidays with us. Thanks to our supporters, families have warm meals, an opportunity to go on a cruise with Santa and even a stocking filled with donated items.
This year, Robin, Maddy and the rest of the Gardner family will celebrate the holidays at home in Alaska, but they have never forgotten what the House has done for them. Instead of giving each other presents this holiday season, they will be donating that money to pay for Christmas dinner for the families at the House.
“The House, and all who are there, will always be a part of our family. And family takes care of family. It’s as simple as that,” explains Robin when asked about the family’s incredible donation. “We do what we can, simply because we’ve been there. We want the families at the House to know – you can do this, you will survive it and you will go back home and you have friends you haven’t even met who understand your grief, your sorrow, and your fears. We want them to know we care, we understand, and that they are not alone. And we hope that the story of Maddy’s journey to recovery and health will give them just a tiny bit of inspiration and hope.”
This year 80 families like the Gardners will be spending the holidays with us at the House. Your donation can help us give that essential support to each of them this holiday season.