An au pair community in the Chicago suburbs is rallying to support a host family’s effort to give back to a local children’s hospital, after Emma, their young daughter, was treated for a rare brain tumor. Pam, an Au Pair in America community counselor, wrote in to share how her cluster group is helping. She also sent along a moving explanation of the project written by Emma’s mom, Annie.
I am an au pair community counselor in the Chicago area. Emma is a little girl in one of my host families who was treated at Lurie Children’s Hospital for a very rare brain tumor. She is doing very well and is now cancer free, after a year of treatment.
When I asked Annie if there was something the au pairs and I could do to help her family, she mentioned a “book project.” Her family wanted to give something back to other children and families at the hospital by creating a book corner for children to select and keep a book while they are being treated.
When the au pairs heard about this, they wanted to participate by collecting new books. Au pairs from Germany, Sweden, Brazil, Panama, Costa Rica, Poland, Mexico and Colombia came together for our first book collection at my house. Other host families in our cluster are participating, too. It’s great to see the au pair community rally for such an important cause.
In our first meeting, we collected about 35 books, and we are collecting books all summer. Donations to support Emma’s book corner can also be made directly.
Annie’s description of the book project follows:
Our Emma was treated at Lurie Children’s Hospital over the course of 10 months for a rare brain tumor. During her treatment, she spent 50 nights inpatient, and most of these nights were on the 17th floor, the cancer and blood disorders floor. Because so many of these patients have compromised immune systems and can’t leave the floor, this floor has its own playroom.
This playroom is wonderful but has limited hours. It often happened that Emma would miss the afternoon playroom hours because of her nap. As a family, we wanted to come up with a way for something to be available for kids who missed the playroom hours. Our initial thought was a library in the hall that could be accessed at any time.
Unfortunately, due to infection control reasons, that wasn’t an option. However, we were able to establish a book corner in the family lounge on the 17th floor, through the sale of Emma t-shirts and through the generous donations of our family and friends.
At the hospital, a child life specialist makes sure there are always a few books out for the taking. While in the family lounge on several different occasions, I observed other families carefully selecting a book to bring back to their rooms and observed them being excited about the option to do so.
If a patient comes in unexpectedly or was unprepared to stay the night, there are always books available. If a child has been inpatient for a week and is bored of everything brought from home, there are always books. Even if it’s the middle of the night, and a toddler won’t go to sleep and wants to read a book, the family can grab one.
Our Emma is done with treatment and doing wonderfully! We want to make sure that the book corner remains stocked for all the families still going through treatment. We think this is a wonderful way to give back to the hospital that saved our little girl.
It’s a privilege to share such good news about Emma’s recovery and her family’s desire to give back. It is especially heartwarming to see an international community of au pair exchange participants—au pairs, community counselors AND host families alike—coming together to help a host family share their gratitude. Our au pair community is making life just a bit better for other children and families going through some very difficult times. Well done, all!
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