George Mark Children's House
San Leandro, California
"That sounds so sad," people murmur when they learn that Kathy Hull cofounded a home for children who are seriously or terminally ill. "Yet when they come to visit, often with trepidation, they are surprised to discover how life-affirming it is," says Kathy, a clinical psychologist who saw a need when working at a hospital that sent children home when nothing more could be done medically. "They see healthy sibs running around, pets in the rooms, and Cassie, our therapy camel, marching right down the hall if a child is too sick to go outside.".
With eight bedrooms for kids, two family suites, an aquatic center, and a sanctuary, George Mark Children's House offers medical care, pain relief, transitional care between hospital and home, respite for parents, end-of-life services, and more. The only freestanding respite and end-of-life facility for children in the country, it opened in 2004 and has provided services free to 300 families. The house is named for Kathy's brothers, George and Mark, who died young. "We allow kids to be kids, and parents to be mom and dad," Kathy says. "It's not so much about holding a vigil at the bedside of a dying child as it is about celebrating life."
As staff psychologist and vice president of the board (not to mention cookie baker and garden weeder), Kathy says, "To be right where you need to be with a skill set that lets you be helpful is the most heartwarming work you can imagine."