"A home for kids, when cancer hits home."
Why did I chose to go to a charity based in Boston, USA?
A lot of people have asked me, why did you go there? Why not somewhere in the UK that's closer to home? And my initial response to that is why not? It really shouldn't matter where we are in the world, a sick child is a sick child and not living somewhere that's geographically close to that charity doesn't mean that you can't still help and give back (and that goes for any charity). It also worked out perfectly timing wise as I was already due to go to Boston for New Year and in the run up to Christmas I was trying to help out at local children's charities here in the UK, but was struggling to be able to visit anywhere, as they don't really allow just anyone to visit and provide certain activities for the children (I am still working on this now, so fingers crossed I will be able to in the near future!).
The reason I came up with Christopher's Haven is actually also sheer fluke, I was already in the mind set that I wanted to give back and had a great idea for an activity for the children and then I remembered an article I had seen a few years ago (I have just googled it and to be exact it was 2015! Which feels so long ago now!) whereby Chris Evans bet Chris Pratt that if the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl that year (which of course they did!) that he would have to visit Christopher's Haven in Boston dressed as his Marvel superhero character Star-Lord. It's also worth noting that Christopher's Haven is not state funded and they rely heavily on private donations, whether that be from the local sports teams, private donors, foundations or the Evan's family.
I looked them up again and read that they do accept volunteers to come in and do activities with the children and their families. SUCCESS AT LAST!
However, I still had to get through the door. . . . .
I honestly second guessed myself a few times and nearly chickened out, because I was afraid that they would say no, but I sucked it up and sent an email asking if it would be possible, along with my idea for the activity. Luckily I didn't have to wait long to get a response from Catie, who is the family services manager and runs the day to day at the loft. She really liked the idea and was happy for me to come and meet the families and children to do the activity the day before New Year's Eve.
Unfortunately on the day that I visited many of the children had just undergone their treatment and were therefore very tired and not feeling well - as to be expected, so I was unable to do the activity with them. I told her that I would really love it if they could still do the activity I had planned and take photos and send them to me, but she insisted that it should be me that does the activity and that it would mean that I would have to come back, she then said that I was a part of the family now - and that right there is what made me realise that this place is special. Luckily I did get to meet a couple of the children and speak to them and their families, one little boy in particular (who I will not name) was incredibly sweet and told us all about his trip to London in the summer before his treatment. It still amazes me how resilient children are and how they just keep going and always try their hardest to be happy and smile, some of us adults could definitely learn from them!
What made this trip different was meeting Catie who as mentioned above runs the day to day and is always there, I connected with her instantly as we have a lot in common. I won't go into her story, but you can read about her personal experience with Christopher's Haven on their website (Catie's story), which is how she ended up managing the loft. She also happens to be a migraine sufferer! And strangely she has the exact same infinity necklace that I do (some would say coincidence or fate and even though I may not be that philosophical, I do believe that everything happens for a reason).
your pain is no less or more than anyone else's it's just yours.
Most importantly though there was one conversation I had with her that I think many of us could benefit from taking on board. I was talking to her about my experience with migraines and how growing up with them significantly altered my childhood and that I know what it's like to be a kid that can't go and do the things all of their friends are doing, which in many ways leads to you needing to grow up just that little bit faster - this is why I feel so strongly about helping sick children. I made the point to her that there is no way that I would ever compare my condition with what a child or their family goes through with cancer, but she responded with one of the least judgemental responses I think I've ever heard. She said you can't compare pain, everyone's experiences are unique to them and it's not a competition, your pain is no less or more than anyone else's (I have probably totally butchered that, but it was along those lines!). But the main point is that we could all do with being that little bit less judgemental, more empathetic and take a note from children, who are the least judgemental in this world because they have yet to experience the things we do as adults.
The kindness didn't stop there, before I left Catie gave me a small gift - a hat and band from Love Your Melon, I still wear the band to this day as a reminder. (They are a company that have one mission - of putting a hat on every child that is battling cancer, so they set-up the buy one give one scheme, where you buy a hat and they give one to a child currently battling cancer, they have since exceeded their original goal and now donate millions of dollars to paediatric cancer research).
I went there wanting to give my time, support and love to those that needed it, but didn't expect to feel so loved and thankful in return. I can only imagine how the children and families feel when they stay here, but I am positive that it really is a haven for those going through the unimaginable. What they have created there is something very special, it's not just a place to stay for those going through treatment, its a support system and a family. I know I've rambled on, but that's how passionate I feel about this place and I can't wait to go back and finish the activity that we never got to do, but also to give some more of my time to the children and families that truly need it. Unfortunately that most likely won't be this year now due to current circumstances, but as soon as I can I will (plus I miss Boston!).
A big thank you to Catie and everyone at Christopher's Haven for trusting me and allowing me to visit and spend some time there.
(I am currently busy working on a secret little project for them, specifically creating a little gift for the children that they can take home with them as a little reminder of their time spent there, I will be sure to provide an update once this has all been arranged).
Stay safe everyone and be sure to check out the Christopher's Haven website for more information.
Live. Love. Be Happy.