Great Cause, Great Gala! Celebrating 40 years of Family House

by Alexandra E. Morgan

Published on April 6, 2022

In 1981, the brand new Family House Board of Directors held a  dinner dance at the Mark Hopkins Hotel, a first among many firsts for the fledgling operation. Most of the board members had either lost a child to cancer or were UCSF medical professionals.

The group was small but mighty.  They raised enough money to help pay off the mortgage on the first Family House at 50 Irving Street. It was a big moment.

Fast forward to April 2, 2022, the Don’t Stop Believin’ gala, celebrating 40 years of continued success in providing compassionate housing, meals, transportation, clothing, birthday parties, and even funeral support for over 75,000 families who have stayed with us.

What a tall order for event chair Gerry Sangiacomo!

First, we wanted to recognize the purpose of our existence—to help those who need our services.  We contacted four beautiful families who made it through life-threatening pediatric diseases:

  • Hannah Goold, now an RN (Registered Nurse) in West Virginia who overcame an abdominal tumor at eight years old (it helped that her Uncle Paul has been a Director at Family House for the past 20 years);
  • Ja’Ceon Golden, a 5-year-old who overcame SCIDS because of his mom, Dannie’s, determination;
  • B.K. Cannon, a Hollywood actress who overcame pediatric cancer and was joined by her mom, Trudy, who traveled from Hawaii and
  • Sam Colosio, a teen who never let spina bifuda stop him from living the life that his mom, Janel, envisioned for him.

    Kate Matthay and her patient, BK Cannon; Diana Farmer and her patient Sam Colosio, Mignon Loh and her patient Hannah Goold. Photo: Drew Altizer

Dr. Mort Cowan and his patient, Ja’ceon Golden. Photo: Drew Altizer

The next step was to honor the world-class physician-scientists at UCSF who saved the lives of these patients and thousands of others—Dr. Kate Matthay, Dr. Mort Cowan, Dr. Diana Farmer, and Dr. Mignon Loh.  If you weren’t in the room, every guest was overjoyed in being able to recognize these unsung heroes.  We celebrated the intellect, dedication, and compassion that each of these physicians represents.

But only four doctors? No way! Chancellor Sam Hawgood, who started as a gifted neonatologist, presented the awards, a treat itself.  Drs. Michael Harrison, Bob Brasch, Kevin Shannon, and Chico Cauldwell were called to come forward in recognition of their lifelong dedication to healing sick children by Dr. Hanmin Lee, current Family House board member and the rock star Chief of Pediatric Surgery at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.

I would like to thank Marlene Saritzky and Tom Corwin for elevating the production of our event, making the Family House story nothing short of elegant by bringing in Dana King as MC, and artists, Darius Simpson and Janae Johnson, who brought down the house.  Event producer, Camilla Burraston, performed a typically brilliant job.

Of course, nothing would have happened without our excellent staff—Jessica Creager, Anoushka Donnelley, Karen Banks, Tarence Dixon, Jill Davis, Jeanine Homich, Paul Goold, and 20 others—who make Family House what it is today. And who knew that Board Chairman, Kevin Keenley, was a rapper!

It sometimes looks as if love and gratitude are in short supply, but not at Family House; our community generates enough loving kindness for everyone who passes through our doors.

Drew Altizer Photography and Larry Lauterborn provided us with fantastic memories of the night. 

Have a look at all the amazing photos from the event here!

Family House San Francisco is an independent non-profit organization led by a professional staff and board of directors dedicated to providing residential services free of charge to qualifying families. Since we receive no financial support from UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital or any other public entity, we rely solely on the generous contributions of individuals, corporations, and foundations. 

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