Hello all! As summer comes to a close, PJ’s for Patients is reflecting on our first year of operation. I am so pleased with how far we’ve come since our commencement in mid-October of 2013: we’ve organized fundraisers with 3 schools, delivered about 200 pajamas to children and teens seeking cancer treatments away from home, worked with the Ronald McDonald House of NYC, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s Pediatrics Department, Hope Lodge- Hogar Ninos Que Quieren Sonreir in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the University Pediatric Hospital in Centro Medico, Puerto Rico, raised over $2,000 to purchase new pajamas for the pediatric patients, received 2 corporate donations, and created a Facebook page! I am excited to see what this year will bring! More school and hospital collaborations are currently in the works! We are also planning another pair of deliveries to Sloan and the RMH at the beginning of September, to help kick off pediatric cancer month! Also, this blog has been viewed in 11 countries! Thanks to all our local and international viewers!! 🙂 Please enjoy the remainder of your summer- there’s still a week left! 🙂
Friday, August 15th, was a beautiful day for me. After enjoying the Puerto Rican sun in San Juan from Tuesday to Thursday, my family and I headed over to Hato Rey to visit the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge Hogar Ninos Que Quieren Sonreir (For Children Who Want to Smile). The ACS Lodges provide invaluable services, including housing and food, for individuals and families dealing with cancer. After coordinating my visit with the wonderful Barbara Rios (more about her later 🙂 ), I was able to visit the Hope Lodge with a delivery of pajamas that my family and I had carried from New York in an extra suitcase.
Many patients staying at the Hope Lodge are from the west side of the island, and use their Casa Fuera de Casa, or home away from home, to receive treatments in Hato Rey during the week. Since I visited on a Friday, many of the guests had gone back home for the weekend; however, we did manage to run into several of the adult guests of the Lodge, who had the most superb things to say about it!
After touring the facility, I understood why. First and foremost, the Lodge is incredible, and feels like the perfect mix between a comfy home and a luxury hotel. From the star curtains donated by Disney to the mural of the children’s handprints, the Lodge never fails to make you smile. Also, the manager of the children’s program, Barbara, is absolutely wonderful! She is a ray of sunshine for many families in an otherwise difficult time, and contributes profoundly to the happy environment of the Hope Lodge.
After touring the Hope Lodge with Barbara, we drove to a hospital where we were able to deliver the pajamas directly to the children and teens of its oncology center. Although I’ve fundraised, volunteered, and delivered donations for years, I have never before been able to actually see the patients receive their pajamas. As we made our rounds throughout the hospital, I realized just how essential places like the Hope Lodge are for people dealing with pediatric cancer. Many of the patients at the hospital were also guests at the Lodge, and it was beautiful to see their relationship with Barbara and the obvious comfort they felt at their casa fuera de casa. The experience of cancer is so daunting, so isolating- until you discover a place of happiness, laughter, comfort, and hope. The Hope Lodge is that place for many cancer patients.
As I delivered the pajamas, I was able to chat with some of the patients (in my imperfect, semi-fluent Spanish), spend some time with them in their rooms, and take some pictures together. It was definitely a beloved and new experience for me, as I am usually not permitted to visit the children due to strict hospital rules.
Visiting the Lodge and meeting members of its staff, some of its guests, and the children and teens being treated in the hospital was nothing short of remarkable for me. The conversations we had (even with my botched español) and the smiles that were shared will remain in my heart forever. Like Barbara said in one of her emails to me, “I believe that memories are beautiful gifts from time.” I thank the Hope Lodge for giving me one of the most beautiful gifts I have ever received- love.
I look forward to working with the Hope Lodge again at some point in the near future! Please Like them on Facebook to learn more about the wonderful work they do! https://es-es.facebook.com/PRHLGHNQQS
We have some SUPER EXCITING news! PJ’s for Patients will be making its first delivery outside of New York City, New York State, the tristate area, and even the fifty states! That’s right- WE’RE GOING TO PUERTO RICO!
¡Sí! Vamos al Caribe!
For the past few months, I’ve been organizing our next delivery to PR- specifically, to an amazing establishment founded by the American Cancer Society called Hope Lodge- Hogar Niños Que Quieren Sonreír (Home for Children Who Want to Smile). This wonderful place, founded in 1994, provides temporary lodging for cancer patients (from newborns to 21-year-olds) and their families. Many of the Lodge’s children are treated at the University Pediatric Hospital in Centro Medico, San Juan, close to the “casa fuera de casa” (home away from home, as the Lodge is lovingly called). The University Pediatric Hospital is among Puerto Rico’s best and most popular centers for cancer care; 65% of cancer patients in PR turn to it for treatment. I discovered the Hope Lodge after looking into the American Cancer Society’s many extraordinary programs for people dealing with cancer; I have worked with them for almost seven years now, and respect the invaluable progress they make both in oncological research and quality of life for countless cancer patients and their families.
The Hope Lodge has serviced over 3,000 families in its years of operation, and continues to stand as a beacon of hope, light, and happiness in an otherwise dark time. The Hope Lodge has a vibrant, adorable, active Facebook page; find out more here! https://www.facebook.com/PRHLGHNQQS?fref=ts.
Although the pajamas we will be delivering have been purchased with money from our fundraisers, grant, and generous donors, I will be delivering the pajamas independently. 😦 It is difficult to deliver with PJ’s for Patients friends and our Do Something Club members when people are busy with work, camp, or vacation- it’s even more difficult when that place is overseas! Fortunately, I will be visiting PR with my family, and will be able to drop off the pajamas in the midst of our stay! 🙂 We will most certainly keep you posted on the progress of our deliveries!
We’ve also just received a picture of some of our pajamas being put to good use by our contact at the Ronald McDonald House! The RMH, which provides housing, food, and other services for families dealing with pediatric cancer provides its incoming families with Welcome Bags upon arriving at the House. These packages include some essentials like toothbrushes, lotion, and tissues, some fun items, like crayons, play packs, and toys, and some cozy items, like socks and pajamas! We are happy to be involved with the Ronald McDonald House, and look forward to another collaboration with them in the early fall!
Hello all! Today, I wanted to post about somebody who has been an inspiration to me and countless others in her compassion, strength, kindness, sense of humor, and love for others. Esther Grace Earl was born on August 3rd, 1994, and lived an action-packed, happy life. She was diagnosed with metastasized papillary thyroid cancer in 2006, but didn’t let her diagnosis completely take over. Through her love of Harry Potter (http://thehpalliance.org) and Nerdfighteria (https://www.youtube.com/user/vlogbrothers), she became an active Youtuber, spreading her heartfelt messages of love through funny, quirky videos. (Here’s her Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdZb9xjim9qjnIwAuQpvWJA) On August 25, 2010, soon after her sixteenth birthday, Esther passed away. But with her buoyant personality and practically unfaltering spirit, she continues to be a presence in many lives. Esther’s family created This Star Won’t Go Out, an organization that helps families with children who have life-threatening cancer. Visit their website here: http://tswgo.org. Many of Esther’s beautiful, whimsical journal entries, as well as messages from her loving friends and family, have been compiled into the This Star Won’t Go Out book. All proceeds benefit the Earls’ foundation, which provides financial assistance for families facing pediatric cancer. Esther was also part of the inspiration for John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. Although the novel is not about Esther, the life and character of Hazel Grace Lancaster were undoubtedly shaped by Esther’s life and wonderful personality. So today, August 3rd, is Esther Day. When John and Hank Green of the Vlogbrothers Youtube channel asked their friend Esther what she wanted their videos to be about on her birthday each year, “she wanted it to be a day to celebrate love for family and friends.” Since 2010, Esther Day has helped to spread messages of love for friends and family, and to verbalize that love in the time that we are fortunate enough to have on this Earth. In some of Esther’s diary entries in the TSWGO book, she expresses her desire to help other people, to do more for others despite her own predicament. Esther and her family have succeeded in accomplishing this goal; their family charity founded and operated in her memory has helped so many families undergoing similar treatments, financial confusion, and emotions, and will continue to do so until childhood cancer ceases to exist. This Star Won’t Go Out is definitely worth looking into; today, let’s all verbalize our love for our family and friends, and, as Esther said, “Just be happy, and if you can’t be happy, do things that make you happy. Or do nothing with the people that make you happy.” We hope to be able to one day collaborate with This Star Won’t Go Out- we will keep you posted. Remember, “Live fully and love deeply no matter the obstacle or length of days.” (PC to This Star Won’t Go Out)