Reflections on Rock The House
Published on November 18, 2020
“I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
Well it has been a few days since the virtual gala, Rock The House, and we are all still feeling the love from all of the positive reactions to the show and the incredible generosity shown to Family House San Francisco by our sponsors and individual donors. It is hard to imagine that a virtual event could raise $1.34 million dollars!! For those who sent messages, please know how much the entire team, including the irreplaceable master of ceremony, Liam Mayclem, appreciates the gesture.
When asked to Chair this year’s event I was so torn. How could we pull off what we did last year virtually? As a reminder, last year we had a record number of people (700) who we served cocktails, dinner and entertainment in a gorgeous venue. In July, I was in five Zoom meetings a day, where someone inevitably froze for portions of it and I just could not fathom how we could host something that would truly capture the essence of an organization that means so much to me and to so many others. The responsibility to raise the amount of money needed for operations at Family House seemed almost impossible and my instinct was to try and reset everyone’s expectations of how this might work.
Then I remembered when a child is ill, and a family is involuntarily set onto a journey in rocky waters, that they did not ask for, that limits on what can happen were not acceptable. I knew that the story of these families was one that would win the day. So armed with the team from Family House, and the very engaged planning committee, we set off on our own uncharted journey. It would be impossible for me to thank them all enough. They were pushed to think beyond what seemed possible and they delivered. In addition, we went bold and early with our solicitations of donors competing against so many important donation priorities, not the least of which was COVID 19.
Our minds were blown by the number of people who stepped up with large donations; beginning with our very first donation from Ron and Gayle Conway and Nancy and Stephen Grand. They paved the way for every single ask after that. I was also so grateful to the Board for coming on early.
In my 28 years of working in children’s services at UCSF, I have collected too many family stories to count. Each have left an indelible mark on my heart. Families who were going through things that I could not fathom and when I did try, I was overwhelmed. They have always been my touchstone in every administrative action that was required in the hospital and in every interaction with the incredible healthcare team charged with their care. The Department of Pediatrics and the Divisions of Hematology Oncology, Critical Care, Allergy Immunology and BMT, and Pediatric Surgery all came through with sponsorships. I cannot tell you how fortunate these families are to have these world- renowned leaders in research and clinical care at their service. Each of these physicians, many of whom I have known my entire career, are equally as compassionate as they are clinical experts. They too, live the highs and lows with these families, always pushing themselves to increase the amount of high moments. They are my inspiration.
I tried to put myself in the shoes of the families that could not shelter in place because of the seriousness of their child’s illness. My own two grown children went to work every day all through the pandemic and my fears were very real. I could not imagine the intensity of emotion as these families had no choice but to leave the protection of their own homes and travel to San Francisco. I felt such enormous gratitude for Family House. Under the compassionate and crazy good stewardship of CEO Alexandra Morgan, the team completely changed their practice. John Barrett, Family House COO, was nothing short of heroic in pivoting the care from communal to individualized care instituting exceptional infection prevention measures. This was vital during the initial surge but even more vital as the hospital tried to bring children back who had had their care postponed. I think every physician at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital would echo my gratitude for the operations team at Family House.
Pat Monahan and Train’s performance made us all realize the healing sounds of live music; something we have not been able to hear for months on end. Pat’s words brought us all to tears for their sincere reverence of our patients, their families and the Family House staff; particularly Alexandra. His voice seemed particularly soothing during a time of such profound uncertainty.
To the families who so openly and honestly shared their stories in the amazing Kevin Erdman videos, you remind us all of the poignant power of a parent’s love. Your own humility in the face of such unknown circumstance and outcome shone through each word. YOU are the superheroes and our thoughts are always with you. I am now crying again.
With deepest gratitude and love,
Chair, 39th Annual Family House Gala: Rock The House
VP Operations, UCSF Health
In the end, nothing we do or say in this lifetime will matter as much as the way we have loved one another. —Daphne Rose Kingman