Blanket forts, healthy hearts and life: What our families are thankful for

When parents and children first arrive at our front door — no matter why or from where they come — they forever become part of our extended family.

On this Thanksgiving, just like the 47 million others who are traveling to see loved ones, we too packed up the car and drove to visit 11 of the families who have stayed with us at Boston Children’s over the years. We wanted to find out what they were most thankful for and what makes this season special to them.

Thank you to the families of Ella S., Julian, Ella D., Addison, Callum, Nora, Avery, Jace, Molly, Charlotte, Murphy and Robbie for welcoming us into your homes. And thank you for sharing your stories of hope with the parents who may be carrying their child through our front door right now.


Click on a child’s name to learn more. Photos by Katherine C. Cohen. 


Ella S.

“There is little worse than watching your child struggle with a life-threatening condition. In those times when you are begging the powers above to get your child through this, you promise everything, but mostly you promise to never take a moment for granted. It’s hard to live up to that promise day to day — when you’re running late or during tantrums — but then you watch them sleep, watch them change and grow and learn. Then you remember that promise. You remember what really matters. We are thankful for those moments.” – Carrie, Ella S.’s mom



“I was thankful on Thanksgiving two years ago when Julian was born. And I am thankful every day to be able to spend another minute, another hour, another day, another year with such a special person like my son. I am thankful for my daughter’s health, for my family, for Julian’s donor family, and for the many people who have touched our lives throughout our transplant journey.” – Liz, Julian’s mom


20151116_ThanksgivingElla-10cropElla D.

“Last Thanksgiving, we were half way into our craniosynostosis journey — dealing with neurology appointments, helmet checkups and measurements, along with the surgery and the ups and downs of Ella wearing her helmet 23 hours a day, 7 days a week. We are all thankful that it’s a memory and she’s helmet-free!” – Cynthia, Ella D.’s mom



“Fall was typically tough on Addison: she would have pneumonia every year around this time. Then she was diagnosed at Thanksgiving time two years ago. She had several invasive procedures, a sedated MRI, and then came the open-heart surgery. I don’t recall breathing much during any of that time. This year we are thrilled that she is healthy. I can finally relax a little and trust that if she gets a cold, it will just be a cold and not turn into something more serious.” – Kristine, Addison’s mom


Unknown-1Callum and Nora

“For the parent of children with life-threatening diseases, Thanksgiving has a different meaning. I am thankful for blanket forts and finger-paint artwork, baby dolls and matchbox cars strewn throughout the house, messy fingerprints on every surface and cookie crumbs in the couch cushions. And in the middle of the night, when a child’s cry disturbs our sleep, we are so grateful that we are able to hold that child in our arms and soothe them back to sleep. We know that there are parents with empty arms who would love to be woken up in the middle of the night by their child’s cries.” – Christine, Callum and Nora’s mom



“Last Thanksgiving, we were two months removed from Avery’s open-heart surgery and she was doing wonderfully. The gratitude we were feeling at that time was overwhelming. It was a “close your eyes, clench your fists, exhale” kind of gratitude. I couldn’t imagine ever feeling happier or more thankful. This year, what we feel has evolved into an “eyes open, fingers spread, inhale” kind of gratitude. Today, as we watch our healthy and blossoming 3-year-old girl, an all-encompassing joy accompanies the gratitude.” – Jessica, Avery’s mom



“We are most thankful that our son, Jace, is now 16 months post surgery from his third and final procedure treating his hydrocephalus. Jace has brought so much joy to our whole family and friends. I feel very proud of all he’s done already in his life. He looks, sounds and acts like nothing ever happened to him. In fact, it seems as though he has some sort of superpowers.” – Jamie, Jace’s dad



“With each year that passes, we become more grateful for another ‘healthy’ year with Molly. We are grateful for her heart (both broken and now as healthy as it will probably ever be). If she wasn’t born with a sick heart, we wouldn’t know what a miracle looks like, how amazing Boston Children’s is and how many lives are saved because of the amazing work done behind those doors.” – Kerry, Molly’s mom



“When Charlotte was diagnosed in 2011, I mourned all the things she would never do and cried for all the struggles that were ahead of her. We still have those dark days, but I’ve learned to appreciate every milestone and happy moment in a truly grateful way. Tuberous sclerosis has become part of our life, but it’s not our whole life. Charlotte is a happy, sweet 5-year-old that lives a good life. Her disease has taught me to find those moments of thankfulness every day.” – Allyson, Charlotte’s mom



“On Nov. 26 of last year, we found out that Murphy was officially cancer-free. Her chance of having cancer again is less than 1 percent! I will always remember what Murphy’s oncologist told us: to never forget what she had been through and to never forget that she is a cancer survivor at five and a half months. This Thanksgiving, we are busy celebrating Murphy’s cancer-free day and the arrival of our newest little girl, Declan!” – Christine, Murphy’s mom



“Through this very trying fall, we have learned how incredibly fortunate we are to have such amazing families, friends and doctors. And we are thankful for Robbie, the happiest, most lovable little boy who lights up our every day. He reminds us that everything will be all right with his amazingly positive disposition and constant smile. Our hearts grow fuller with every day we spend as a family and with Robbie.” – Kayla, Robbie’s mom