Each year, thousands of families come from all over the world to Children’s Hospital Boston for care. But travel and medical costs can be expensive, leaving many families stuck with the challenge of finding affordable housing in Boston while their child receives treatment and medical stays that can last for weeks or months.
To help ease the burden for some of our families, Children’s has two residential buildings, The Autumn Street House and Yawkey Family Inn, that families can stay at for free and often act as a homes-away-from-home during their visits.Tucked away in quiet residential neighborhoods, each house is just a short walk from Children’s main campus, but their peaceful and family-centered environments make them feel miles away.
Still, despite the calm of their surroundings, being away from family and friends on holidays can take a heavy toll on many of the residents’ spirits. The dedicated staff and volunteer team at both Autumn Street and Yawkey Family Inn are sensitive to these feelings, and pride themselves on making each residence feel as home-like as possible during holidays. This past Thanksgiving was a prime example, as a small team of volunteers cooked and served a feast for the 35 families who were staying at either the Autumn Street House or Yawkey Family Inn.
In previous years, local businesses donated prepared Thanksgiving meals for the houses’ holiday celebrations, and while their efforts were greatly appreciated, the process left some guests and staff members wanting a more family orientated experience.
“We wanted to cook in the house this year, because in our family, a big part of the tradition is everyone sitting around and talking while the cooking goes on,” said Sally Conahan, a Yawkey Family Inn volunteer who coordinated this year’s Thanksgiving meal. “We wanted to share that moment of togetherness with the residents. Plus, I love the idea of letting the cooking smells waft through the buildings and getting everyone excited for the meal, it makes it much more of a shared experience.”
The day before the holiday, 30-pound turkeys were stuffed and left to slow cook overnight in each residence, filling the house with aromas of the meal to come. Then, on Thanksgiving morning, Sally and her four sisters buzzed back and forth between the Yawkey Family Inn and Autumn Street House preparing vegetables, freshly baked bread and rich desserts to complete the meals.
Both diners were a rousing success, but Sally says the process of coordinating and cooking with staff and residents was even more enjoyable than the food itself. “Usually everyone is so busy with their lives, being able to slow down, cook and talk is a great reminder about what’s really important in life,” she says. “It’s a lot of work, but in the end it makes you feel good. Having that type of balance in your life is great and I’m thankful to be part of it.”