Most people in the Upper Valley area have heard of David’s House at CHaD, the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth; for those who haven’t, David’s House provides parents and families a place to stay while their children are receiving intensive medical care.
David’s House is the dream of a little boy named David Cyr and his father, Dick. For three years David was in and out of the hospital with acute lymphocytic leukemia, and his dad spent much of that time at the hospital. There he met many parents who slept in their cars or in chairs in their child’s hospital room, unable to afford any length of stay at a nearby hotel and unwilling to leave their child’s side.
Just before David passed in 1984, his father asked him what he had been saving all his allowances, spare change, and birthday money for and David answered, “for a special reason.” And so, his own $300.78 provided the seed money for David’s House which opened its doors on January 20, 1986 and has now served over 14,000 families.
As the David’s House website states, “David’s House is a house because of the roof, the walls, the rooms, and the beds. David’s House is a warm and welcoming home because of the people who keep the doors open 365 days a year.”
A group from Tyler, Simms & St. Sauveur volunteered to get the playground read f or the young guests. They also provided a BBQ for all the guests.
Jill Ross, the volunteer program manager, noted that they currently have 35 hospitality volunteers and have had hundreds volunteer for cooking, special events, fundraising and more. The Hospitality Volunteers take regular shifts at the front desk greeting the families and ensuring their comfort.
One of the current volunteers, Stacey Chiocchio, has been working with David’s House for over 10 years. Stacey has volunteered as a Hospitality Volunteer, a cooking volunteer, has helped out with special events, is currently on the Governance and Finance Committees, and is both a former President of the Board and Treasurer.
Stacey chose to volunteer at David’s House after her experience as a teenager with her brother. “The reason I started volunteering at David’s House is that the mission is so important. When I was in high school and lived in Long Island, my brother was in an accident while at summer camp in New Hampshire. He was in a coma for a couple of weeks, and we lived mostly in the emergency room waiting room and the lobby of Concord Hospital.”
“Eventually, we moved to a motel, but we were fortunate that we had the resources to do that. When I learned about David’s House, I was thrilled that there was this wonderful warm, cozy, clean home for families to feel supported and cared for while their children were being treated at the Children’s Hospital of Dartmouth.”
Hypertherm volunteers cooking for the families.
Hermine Wallach is another Hospitality Volunteer who has been working there for four years every Wednesday morning noted, “It is so rewarding because everyone [staff and families] there has such positive vibes and it’s wonderful for the families to not have to worry and just concentrate on their child.”
Becky French, fourth grade teacher at the Marion Cross School, has been volunteering at David’s House for about a year. She has been a substitute Hospitality Volunteer a few times but her favorite thing is cooking. “I feel more connected as a dinner cook,” she said.
Cooking at David’s House is often a family affair for Becky, either with her children, 12, 14, and 16 years old, or cook with her sister, Sarah Harriman. “We don’t see each other enough, so it’s a once a month time we get together and cook and have fun. We’ve done a few birthday parties and those are really fun.”
“I like when I take my kids for them to see people whose lives are different from ours, I like giving something back to the community and the nights I am there with my sister, I just like to have time with her, cooking in the same kitchen, catching up, laughing. It’s a really fun thing to do with other people.” Becky noted that it can be a great way to get together with friends too. Instead of going out to dinner, they can go and cook a meal and catch up in the same way while doing something good for people.
When we first contacted Jill Ross to find volunteers to talk about David’s House the number who responded was incredible. It seems many who volunteer there in any capacity, as a hospitality volunteer, helping cook, once or many times, or assisting with special events, loves the experience. The mission of David’s House draws many to it, but the people, the staff, and the joy are why so many stay.