“As soon as we walked in the door, we were able to breathe. It really is our saving grace.”
- Kausha, Christian's mom
Born with Cerebral Palsy and a respiratory condition, doctors said Christian wasn’t likely to live past 3 years old.
But he has surprised everyone. Today, he is developmentally disabled, uses a gastric feeding tube, and has recovered from no less than 9 surgeries. Kausha feels nothing but gratitude for Christian’s fighting spirit—but she always wanted more for her son.
Learning about George Mark Children's House was life-changing for Kausha and Christian’s dad Michael. "George Mark takes care of Christian like we do, and that’s saying a lot," Kausha says. "We let Christian know that George Mark Children's House is his. Christian lets us know that he likes it. When we're driving up and he sees the gates, he gives us an enormous smile."
“Kaitlyn can’t wait to come stay at George Mark!”
- Liz, Kaitlyn's mom
Kaitlyn has uncontrolled epilepsy and gastroparesis, a severe digestive disorder. But in many ways, she’s just like other young teens, with a passion for drawing and learning about art. Kaitlyn needs 24/7 care, and her mom Liz juggles it all—while being a full-time mom to Kaitlyn’s 12-year-old brother Kai, too. Liz is a true hero, and George Mark Children’s House is proud to be her back‐up.
At her first Respite Care stay, Kaitlyn threw herself into art projects, sang with our Music Therapist, and spent some time with our friendly therapy dogs. When we learned Kaitlyn had already set her cell phone to count down the days, hours, and minutes until her next visit—we knew we’d succeeded.
“George Mark Children’s House was our refuge at a tumultuous time.”
– Shekinah and Peter, Lars's parents
Lars was born at just 32 weeks, and was soon diagnosed with severe polymicrogyria—a rare condition that affects brain development. His parents Shekinah and Peter were told he was unlikely to survive infancy.
When they visited George Mark House and met with our staff, they knew they were in the right place. "We immediately felt safe, protected and at peace with the staff," says Shekinah. GMCH gave them a safe, supportive space to be with Lars as a family, relaxing in the soothing warm water of our spa, enjoying a picnic, and introducing Lars to close friends and family.
"Thanks to the volunteers, doctors, nurses, and staff, it was the most cherished time we spent with our son. They were like angels, helping us cope and say goodbye to him as he was gradually fading."
“The first time I had slept through the night since Niko was born was at George Mark.”
– Shinmin, Niko’s mom
As a newborn, Niko was diagnosed with Mucolipidosis Type 2, a progressively debilitating condition that affects her growth. It also affects her ability to sleep well—she sometimes wakes up as often as every half hour throughout the night.
When Shinmin and Niko spent their first night with us, the supportive environment and staff here at George Mark quickly put them at ease. Our palliative aquatic therapy also helped Niko sleep much better than usual, which gave her mom a much-needed good night's sleep, too.
Since then, Niko has stayed with us several times—and Shinmin was even able to take Niko’s older sister on a real beach vacation. "I feel like when I bring Niko to George Mark, I'm bringing her to family. I'm not greeted with paperwork but with bear hugs."
“Tashawna teaches me over and over the power of a positive attitude, no matter what life brings”
- Gwen, Tashawna's mom
Tashawna has a degenerative genetic disorder called Friedreich's Ataxia—the same disease that has already claimed the lives of her father and her older sister. At 21, her condition is declining, and her mobility is limited.
But she makes the most of every day.
Despite the huge losses she has experienced, Tashawna faces life with humor, enthusiasm, poise, and an open heart. Her twice-a-year Respite Care stays with us let her experience some fun and independence, and our counseling services help her deal with being a vibrant young woman living with a terminal condition. But more importantly, she's able to socialize, explore music and art, enjoy the beautiful grounds, and eat delicious, healthy food.
And if she doesn’t like what's on the menu, Chef Barbara even makes her something special.
“George Mark Children's House helped us to truly enjoy our time with George, even in the midst of our despair.”
– Alison, George's mom
George's parents, Alison and Sean, learned of his terminal condition shortly after he was born. His prognosis wasn't known, and when it came time to take him home from the hospital, they were both overjoyed and terrified.
As first-time parents, they'd never changed a diaper, let alone a feeding tube. But two weeks of Transitional Care with us helped them find the confidence they needed to care for their son's medical needs at home in an environment of normalcy and joy.
"The confidence George Mark gave us made it possible to enjoy the time we had with our son, rather than worrying over every little detail of his care," says Alison. "Now that he is gone, George Mark is a place where his two younger sisters can get to know him."
“From the moment we entered our room at George Mark Children's House, we were finally a family.”
– Amie, Ruthie Lou's mom
Ruthie Lou was just two weeks old when her parents were told she would not survive. They were beyond devastated.
When they learned about George Mark, they realized they'd found a way for Ruthie Lou to experience life away from the restrictions and beeping machines of the NICU. George Mark gave them a space to bond as a family and celebrate the short time they had with their daughter.
Ongoing counseling at George Mark has also helped Amie and Chris navigate their grief and the fears associated with learning they were expecting Ruthie Lou's brother, Reid. "The entire staff at George Mark has supported us and held our hands," Amie says. "They’ve held us during the most devastating time of our life, and celebrated with us during our greatest joys."
“I was so grateful for George Mark Children's House. Everyone was sweet, supportive and loving. I didn't have to fight anymore.”
– Allison, Michael's mom
Born healthy, Michael developed meningitis at 18 days, and at two months, he developed hydrocephaly that required surgery. Allison heard again and again that her life with Michael would be difficult. But he came out of his surgery smiling, and she realized that even though it would be an uphill battle, they both had the strength to face it.
Michael's health began declining around his 13th birthday. Allison learned about George Mark and decided to spend Michael's last days with us.
"For 13 years, I was Michael's big bulldozer mama tiger trying to make things happen for him," she says. The George Mark Children's House gave Allison and Michael a place to be together where they could feel supported and in control. "George Mark's staff understood and appreciated Michael. It was a wonderful way to honor an amazing kid."