YPAC’s Joshua Kim on Raising Funds for Family House during Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month

by Joshua Kim, YPAC Member

Published on September 23, 2021

September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month. This year is also the 40th anniversary of Family House. So, how are we celebrating? By raising funds! 

Our Young Professionals Advisory Council (YPAC) has arranged a fundraiser during Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month to raise $20,000 in support of Family House. Today, we are sharing the story of our YPAC member Joshua Kim and what drives him to volunteer for Family House.  

From the day my younger sister, Cayla, was born, she has lived in and out of hospitals. Doctors have spent hours figuring out what was wrong with her, unable to diagnose her condition, and have tried every drug combination possible. Today, Cayla depends on oxygen, lives with pulmonary hypertension, has endured multiple amputations, and has four rare life-limiting conditions. 

Cayla and her brother, Joshua

After seeing multiple specialists, my parents researched and found the UCSF Pediatric Pulmonary Hypertension clinic, considered one of the best in the country. Since Cayla can’t fly on the airplane, my family drives to UCSF several times a year from Los Angeles. Because her pulmonary hypertension is most likely related to other conditions, she is also followed by immunology, pulmonology, and gastroenterology. 

Cayla loves to add to her stuffed animal collection with each visit to Fozzy’s Toy Room!

Like an iceberg, there are so many hidden challenges associated with living with a life-limiting condition. Something as simple as walking up and down a flight of stairs is arduous as Cayla can’t walk without a wheelchair. Extended stays in hospitals meant that my dad would sleep in a hospital chair before waking up at 6 am to go to work the next day. For Cayla, it meant weeks of isolation, no friends or peer support, no school, and doctors or nurses who would poke and prod her with different IVs and painful side effects of experimental medication like GI bleeding, cataracts, and chronic fractures.

For my family, Family House represents a sanctuary – a home away from our home. After a long six-hour drive, warm and friendly staff welcomes us like a lighthouse welcoming a ship home. Unlike other hospital visits, Cayla gets out of the car excited, always knowing that there will be a visit to Fozzy’s Toy Room,where she can add to her ever-growing stuffed animal collection. She doesn’t need to be constrained to a hospital bed and can even make new friends who, instead of staring, will merely shrug at her appearance. For my parents, staying at Family House means getting to sleep in a bed and not having to worry about how they will be able to get to the hospital the next day since it is the only residence within walking distance to the hospital.  

Beyond all of this, Family House is a community. Through our 4+ years staying at Family House San Francisco, we have met countless other families that have shared resources and stories and have helped us endure the struggle. It has become a source of peer support and strength, all too difficult to find anywhere else. 

Cayla at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital

When I discovered Family House’s Young Professionals Advisory Council (YPAC) two years ago, I jumped at the opportunity to give back. I joined as the Volunteer Committee Vice-Chair to organize game nights to put smiles on those staying at the House the same way other volunteers had done so for my family. It warms my heart when kids break out of their shells and start running around laughing.

Cayla and her mom and dad, John and Michelle, were so excited to meet Santa!

I particularly remember the 2019 Holiday Party that we attended as a family. My mom had been crying all day after discovering a liver transplant could be lifesaving but that my sister would likely not survive the stress of one. I remember how relieved I felt when I saw her smile as my sister thankfully received the white star bear (there was only one) from Santa. Although COVID derailed our in-person events, we were able to keep a connection through a pen pal program with the longer-term residents at Family House. 

To this day, my family continues to stay at Family House during their frequent trips to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. Although I hope one day there won’t be a need for Cayla to stay, I know that we will always find a safe haven in Family House and that the wonderful people at YPAC will always be there to help make them feel right at home.

I, along with YPAC, am hosting a fundraiser during Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month to raise funds for children battling cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. Play your part in helping us reach our goal of raising $20,000 this month!  Donate today by clicking 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. 

Donate in Honor of Cayla