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HEALing House: Where ‘Miracles Happen’
“I have to take my son to hockey practice.”
It’s a simple phrase repeated daily across the globe. But when Lauren Daniels heard it on this particular day, a light bulb went on in her head. Lauren, a 35-year-old mother of three, had just been treated for breast cancer. She was calling another mother just about to undergo her last chemo treatment.
“And that was the tipping point,” Lauren says. “I had a strong family support system to help me through treatment. But I realized there were so many mothers who were going it alone. I had been looking for my cancer’s purpose. I knew this was it!”
The Happily Ever After League – HEAL for short – debuted in 2004 with a broad mission to provide support to moms going through cancer recovery. They give out financial grants for mothers to cover greatest need. They have a food pantry where mothers can shop for what they need. And they host fun family-friendly events.
Lauren’s experience has shown her that summers are the hardest on these families. The kids are out of school, daycare and activities are a necessity, but expensive. “So we buy blocks of movie tickets. Some of these families haven’t been to a movie together for a long time. The financial fallout from cancer often limits what a family can do.”
Perhaps one of the organization’s most intriguing elements is HEALing House. Just a few short years after HEAL launched, and thanks to donations and grants, they were able to buy a cozy house in a lovely Phoenix neighborhood. An army of volunteers poured their love into the house, to make it what it is today: HEAL’s center of operations. The pantry and events are held there, and mothers and children drop in to take a break from their exhausting, draining, cancer-filled lives.
Lauren sees how especially important the house is during the holidays. She says miracles happen all the time there. “Many people don’t have family in town to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with. We are their family and they spend the holidays with us at HEALing House.
“In addition, we do lots of crafting there. While these women and children could do those projects anywhere, we see over and over again that busy hands make busy mouths. A lot of healing goes on while they’re crafting. It has an energy all it’s own.”
During the recent back to school event, HEAL was distributing school supplies. A family came from Casa Grande for the supplies. Gas money to make a trip of that distance is often a stretch for folks dealing with deductibles and out of network specialists. Because of some generous donations, Lauren was able to surprise the two daughters with the additional of a gift card and backpacks, bringing tears to their dad’s eyes.
HEAL touches a family the most the first time they participate in the program. The recipients must fill out an application with the sole caveat that they have at least one dependent child living at home. They want to make it a simple practice, but also make certain there is true need and they want to be good stewards of the money raised.
Lauren has lots of plans for the future. “We just started a new program called Ever After, Life Beyond Cancer. It’s to help women move on, with a special component to help families ravaged by the financial stress of the disease. We want them to get healthy, stay healthy, and help them mentally to move on.”
Participants graduate themselves when they feel ready, but then continue coming as mentors.
Happily, HEAL never has a shortage of volunteers. Lauren laughs, “I’m not sure who gets more out of the program, the recipients or the volunteers. There is a waiting list for volunteers and it warms my heart to see how they love to come and serve. You can teach someone to have a heart of service. But it has to be experienced to become a life long gift.”
Those gifts make every day a holiday at HEALing House.
A 2ND ACT CONTINUED
Judy Pearson is a journalist, published author, and the founder of A2ndAct.org. Her organization supports and celebrates women survivors of all cancers as they give back to the greater good in their 2nd Acts. Her passion is finding those who have healed themselves by helping others.