Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Policy Pulse (1st Edition): What Our Government is Doing to Help Our Families

People are worried about healthcare; some don't want to have to give their tax dollars up to help others with it; some need to know, despite there being a cut in things like social security in the future, that healthcare won't suffer from similar doom and gloom. This is America, after all, isn't it? some say. There is always hope! HOPE: another one of those four letter words, like LIVE and LOVE, that encompass so many things; ideas, feelings, emotions, definitions, and actions and that we don't look to enough for answers. There are beacons of light out there...promise. Read on...

This update came from the following:[capwiz:queue_id]

"U.S. House Approves Hospice Rate Protections

Progress in halting the implementation of the hospice rate cuts was made today when the U.S. House of Representatives approved its version of the economic stimulus package being debated on Capitol Hill this week.

The House package includes a one-year moratorium on a Medicare reimbursement rate cut through elimination of the budget neutrality adjustment factor (BNAF). As the hospice community knows firsthand, this regulatory rate cut threatens access to compassionate, high quality end of life care and jeopardizes the survival of many hospice programs, especially smaller ones.

The NHPCO (National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization) works with the public to ensure that the seriously and terminally ill receive quality care. "

For more information and to educate yourself on what this and the stimulus plan really means for facilities like us and the people we serve, please visit the National Assocation for Healthcare and Hospice website and the New York Times

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

How Much Does Our Community Give Back? A LOT!

Even in touch economic times, it doesn't take much to get a bunch of friends together for a friendly game of poker or a night of bowling. This is just what two out of the many groups in our community (San Francisco Bay Area) are doing for non-profits like GMCH. Our friends at Active Charity ( made sure we took advantage of any straight flushes and donated proceeds from their poker tournament to GMCH. This guys night in wasn't only about chips and dips. Another group created the HOFE Bowling Fundraiser, offering a chance for friends to hit the lanes and donate to GMCH. Their awesome video of the evening here also offers a chance for others interested in the concept to submit their ideas and get together to make another fun-draiser happen.

We are so lucky to have such strong support in and the creative idea's keep on coming. Whether you want to hold a private ice-skating show in your backyard in Wisconsin for charity or run a marathon in the Napa Valley in the name of an ill friend or relative, make your own rules and follow your own path, pick something that can be fun, and that you can do over and over. These actions put the needs of others into perspective and only help our communities and our country learn about what "checks and balances" really means.

Monday, January 26, 2009

George Mark Children's House - FAQ's

When one tours GMCH, one learns and becomes more engaged with what we do for our kids and their families than one would have learned online or from just speaking with someone. There is no other place where visits from therapy animals, pizza tossing and cupcake decorating or hydrotherapy might help to aid in pain management more so than pain medication itself. Also, the physical structure of the House makes one feel at home, as if they are walking down the hall to their kitchen, sitting at the fireplace and drinking hot chocolate (or whatever other goodies Chef Barbara Sardella and staff have prepared) with a close friend.

Helping our kids with their health conditions that they endure day in and day out is complicated; not just for obvious emotional and psychological reasons, but in terms of understanding what illness a child has, how they can be treated, etc. It seems to be a reoccuring them on those medical tv shows that "doctor's" always have to put their theories, diagnosis', etc., into "Lehmann's terms" for their patients. What in the world does "sarcoma" mean? Or "histiocytocytosis?" What is "Absolute Neutrophil Count" or "Anterior Mediastinotomy?" A doctor would probably tell you these were all very basic concepts, procedures...or whatever. For a place like GMCH, there are words we can leave to the professionals to know definitions for, and there are words that everyone should kno the definitions for, and understand, in lieu of what we do for our kids and what sets us apart from other pediatric medical facilities. Here are just a few definitions:

Palliative Care (from Latin palliare, to cloak) is any form of medical care or treatment that concentrates on reducing the severity of disease symptoms, rather than striving to halt, delay or reverse progression of the disease itself or provide a cure. The goal is to prevent and relieve suffering and to improve quality of life for people facing serious, complex illness. For more information, please visit ( Dr. Jan Pankey, our Associate Medical Director, joined GMCH following the completion of a pediatric palliative care fellowship. Her professional interests are pediatric pain and symptom management and cultural diversity in end-of-life settings.

A Child Life Specialist focuses on the psychosocial development of children, and encourages effective coping strategies for children and their families under stress.[4] Child life specialists recognize individuality in patients, and use a range of developmentally appropriate activities, including play, preparation for a medical procedure, education, self-expression, and family support to help cope with hospitalization, illness, or death and dying.[5] Child life specialists are trained to take into account the cognitive, emotional, and physical development of each child in order to encourage optimum development of children facing a challenging experience, particularly in relation to healthcare and hospitalization. GMCH is so lucky to have an in-house Child Life Specialist, Rebecca Simonistch, who facilitates legacy building for families, sibling support, special trips and events, and weekly programming.

Hydrotherapy involves the use of water for soothing pains and treating diseases. The use of water to treat rheumatic diseases has a long history. Today, hydrotherapy is used to treat musculoskeletal disorders such as arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, or spinal cord injuries and in patients suffering burns, spasticity, stroke or paralysis. It is also used to treat orthopedic and neurological conditions and to improve fitness. This term was probably pretty obvious, but it's effects aren't quite so to someone new to GMCH. When you are floating in water, you are weightless, and for some of our kids, weightlessness is the best feeling they have had in years...and might ever have. GMCH's Hydroptherapist Sheila Pyatt works with our children to lessen their aches and pains and is very passionate about the positive effects that this kind of therapy has on pain management.

Such terminology explains the kinds of programs we have at GMCH. These programs are what make GMCH so different from a hospital or larger medical institution, along with the people who personalize these extraordinary service for each child and family.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Wine By Design to Benefit GMCH

The San Francisco Design Center will host gala-goers at this wine auction event, including wines, dinner and dancing. Guests will enjoy meandering throughout the elegant SFDC 4th floor galleria while sampling local vineyard wines and sumptuous food pairings. The auction will consist of wine only and there is no need to purchase a ticket. The event is open to the public.

Proceeds from the wine auction will benefit George Mark Children's House, to which we graciously thank the SFDC and it's supporters and staff. We thank the greater Bay Area for their support outside of East Bay. Please visit for more details. We look forward to seeing you there.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Happy Computer Corner: Giving Doesn't Need to be Expensive...

Even though people are cutting down on their spending doesn't mean priorities shouldn't still shift further - to spending more money on what really matters, and what will give back to those in serious need. Before you buy those new shoes, that happen to be on sale 500%, or even that more expensive bottle of shampoo that you usually buy, think about how far $5 could go when given to an organization that provides homeless with fresh nutritious food, or donating it in more creative ways. It has been said, in the most recent past, that a dollar does not stretch as far as it used to (meaning a dollar in 2004 does not stretch as far as it did in 1935). Time to switch that mantra! A dollar DOES go as far TODAY as it did in 1935, especially now that sales are going out of control and clothing stores, houseware stores and car dealerships are practically giving away their products. More importantly, creative people with creative idea's and resources are coming up with ways to let the public know about how easy it is to be creative (and generous) with that dollar - and stretch it for good! has some great ideas on how to give $5 to impact a charity in need, or (even better on the budget) how to give 5 minutes of your time. And for you iphone junkies who can't get enough of those crazy downloads and applications (I just saw the Star Wars light sword one - so awesome, and so hysterical!), there are now ways to donate money through your application purchases...and more and more non-profit organizations are developing their own iphone applications to keep supporters engaged and having fun while thinking about and supporting their favorite charity! For more detailed information on the subject, Have Fun Do Good is a great resource. Just some things to think about when you are fighting Darth Vadar and saving the Universe...from your office cubicle.

-Happy Computer Corner

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Volunteer Now!

There are so many opportunities in the Bay Area, in and around San Francisco, Berkeley, the North Bay, South Bay, etc., to help in your local food kitchen, mentor a child/young adult or volunteer with kids that might not be as lucky to be as healthy as your own. Here are a few references, in and around the Bay Area, that could help you find the best fit for sharing your time with others (if GMCH is not your first choice, which (duh!) it should be): - a great site that lists hundreds of opportunities that need 1 hour of your time or a year of your time. Busy schedules call for flexible opportunities...and you can find them here. - they manage 120 direct-service projects a month and offer educational programming to help volunteers become well-informed community leaders. - they create a friendly and social atmosphere around volunteering - so make some new friends while helping your community! After each volunteer event - which typically lasts only 3 to 4 hours - volunteers are invited to gather at a local restaurant or café where they can get to know one another in a relaxed social setting. - serving San Francisco and San Mateo Counties, they foster strong networks among nonprofit, public, and business sector organizations and ordinary citizens, united by the overarching goal of improving local communities. What could be better than that tag line?

More to come...!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

President Obama says yes to serve it up!

Yesterday, we watched as an almost official President Obama painted the insides of a homeless shelter, and as he did so, asked many people in the press (who were blinding his efforts to paint with camera flashes), "What are you doing on this Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday to serve our country and your community?" To which one of the photographers replied, "Following you around taking photos," or something of that nature. The President just shook his head in disappointment. Wouldn't it have been great if one of us GMCH supporters had been in the crowd of people and had jumped up, with glee, to suggest volunteering time for a good cause with us? And then asked President Obama if he wanted a tour of the House, lunch with our families and to come to Autumn Celebration next year? Ahhhh, yes - brings new meaning to the word "hope" that he was talking about today...!

Of course, GMCH doesn't just get you in and out. It is a bit more involved, but more rewarding than that photographer would have ever probably imagined. After all; this House is Life.

For more information about volunteering at GMCH, please visit

Friday, January 16, 2009

Everyone IS Created Equal Here!

"All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence."
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

This might be a good mantra for those working within a non-profit organization. It should also be observed by government it seems to be at present time. With our new president taking office next week, the day after a very important holiday, what would you like to see happen, from a personal level to a civic level, in the next year? Four years? Eight years? How would you like to see things change for the better in your community? Be specific when answering these questions, write them down. What do you see now that is good but could be better?

"An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity."
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

GMCH see's families from very different races, socio-economic standings, cultures, ages, dynamics, structures and embraces all and any. We hope to see even more of what this mixing pot of a country can bring us as we grow. Have a safe and tolerant Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday weekend.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Oakland A's Visit GMCH!

George Mark Children's House welcomed two of our very own Oakland A's a few weeks ago. They joined us for a day of tours, lunch, and doing what they do best; flexing their skills and their charitable work! The A's have always been influencial and focused in on the community that surrounds them, and are always eager to find ways to plug into the fans and what's happening in and around the Bay Area. This was truly exemplified by their visit to GMCH, where players Gio Gonzalez and Dana Eveland met a few of our kids, enjoyed lunch with our House and Nursing staff and presented us with one of the most generous gifts this year; a generous check for our hydrotherapy program. Some might say, "Wow! You guys have a spa at the House?" The word "spa" doesn't quite bring to mind what this smaller pool does, or what it needs to sustain it's incredible services for our children and their families. Surrounded by soothing and sea-like murals and tiles, and windows, our hydroptherapist, Sheila Pyatt spearheads the program, and creates relaxing sessions with the kids, easing a child's relentless pain and helping them to feel the joys of weightlessness, with the assistance of a guardian, certified volunteer or staff member. As we all know, just the human head weighs (what did that kid in Jerry McGuire say?) 8 pounds! That's a lot to carry around all day...especially when you aren't feeling up to it. And many of our kids aren't. Yes, it does cost a lot to keep these kinds of programs going. Yet this type of "medication" can attempt in making a child's pain even a bit more manageable. And as we say constantly...this House is here to ease here to do it with dignity and respect and sometimes without having to administer i.v. or prescribe medications. This House is life!

For more about the A's visit and our hydrotherapy program, or other programs at the House and how you can help, sign up for our newsletter today!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Happy Computer Corner Strikes Again...

...with another great resource for GMCH supporters! Stumbleupon is a great way to share a few (or a ton) of your favorite things...and keep record of them! How many times have you been searching for a recipe, a photo of something, read an article or "stumble(d) upon" something on the internet that you didn't want to lose track of or forget, or that you wanted to send a friend or family member? The next someone asks you what you want for your birthday, just link them up to your stumbleupon account - just be sure to warn them of how well-endowed this wish list might be, and maybe give them a price ceiling! Visit, download their custom toolbar and save all of your favorite sites, web pages, blogs, etc. (,,,,, etc.) and send these links directly to your friends via stumbleupon. It is also a great way to get recommendations on great sites and content from other users. But, most importantly, make sure your friends all "stumbleupon" GMCH!

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Happy Computer: Texting is SO last year!

As most of us have noticed, the internet is taking over. How we learn, how we communicate, how we shop, how we read, write, etc. However, there are many good things to be said about all of these technological advancements...and they are no longer becoming advancements, but are the norm, as well all know, in getting news, getting your voice heard and hearing voices...or something like that. : )

So, here are more ways in which you can stay on top of your "Favorites," "Bookmarks," social networking and sharing and, most importantly, how you can stay in touch with and on top of all of the news coming out of George Mark Children's House:
  • - a great way to save and share your favorite websites, blogs, newsfeeds, etc., using a "Tab" system and easily tracking what your internet searches have brought you. Check out the link to the left on this blog for more details! Get to your bookmarks anytime, from anywhere, and from any computer. This allows a tagging mechanism that can caterogize your Bookmarked sites, so that others can easily access such a site through searching under keywords. For example, I would tag GMCH under "children" "medicine" "pediatric" "life" "respite" "house" "healthcare" "kids" "family" , etc.
  • - another great way to easily access and share your favorite sites and web searches, and then some. digg allows a member (free!) to access popular sites, blogs, videos, etc., that have been voted on and recommended by other users. Think of this as sort of a Wikipedia for it is opinion based. Conversations are conducted around content, members can follow each others opinions, or you can share your own opinions about your favorite sites. A great way to tell the world about GMCH!

Under being a registrant with both of these sites (which is free) you can share your favorites and communicate about your fabulous finds with friends and invite friends to join. It's fast and easy.

Stay in touch for more from the Happy Computer Corner...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Twice a month...make it a routine!

Twice a month, GMCH will be rolling out a new social/charity/web networking tool to our supporters that will regularly inhance our exposure, support (hopefully!) and visibility amongst all those web savvy...and those needing to climb on up out of the dark ages! Yes, is hard for all of us. However, it's one of the most effective, usually casual, cost effective and fun ways to get the word out about all of the great work that GMCH is doing!

As most of you know, GMCH is one of a kind. No where in the United States would you find another facility quite like ours. Some compare it to Ronald McDonald House facilities, or St. Jude Children's Hospital and Research. We are kind of a mixture of both, throw is some of the most compassionate and passionate, professional, giving and human nurses, medical staff, social workers, child psychologists, adminstrative staff, volunteer manager, event manager, child life specialist, etc., and you get a very special group of individuals working as a team to make sure that every moment a very ill child has with their family, friends and loved ones if filled with joy, respect, comfort, privacy and happiness. To learn more, please visit our blog regularly and refer to our website: And please keep up with our bi-weekly updates on what is new with GMCH spreading the word on the web! We are sure to be the hottest thing on Twitter and VERY soon!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

twitter, delicious, the point? Where do I start?!

Since the dawn of time, or since the dawn of people like Bill, Sergey and Larry and Steve, techies are always coming up with new and sometimes exciting, sometimes daunting, ways of sharing, communicating, friend-ing, linking, googling, searching, profiling, typing, joining, registering, editing and contributing to or with everyone else on this planet through the web. What a crazy tool! One can quickly become overwhelmed by how many ways there are to send a quick message to someone telling someone else, or a group of someone's or a forum or following of someone's, what they are doing in the next 5 seconds, or what they did 5 seconds ago, or telling someone else over here a restaurant that was visited, then rated, written about, commented on, reviewed and commented on again. Blogging, group discussions via the internet, RSS Feeds (digresing to a first person perspective, I didn't know, nor do I still really understand, what this is) are out there, and organizations, companies, businesses and individuals, smaller and large, public and private, non-profit and for profit, need to keep up or the loss of momentum could be fatal. So just take a little time each day, or an hour a week read about,, stumbleupon, twitter, etc. And don't just look at these kinds of sites because there is so much pressure to stay ahead of the tech-curve, but rather look them up to spread the word about your favorite things...including GMCH!! There are so many ways to link us, communicate about us, share us, talk about us, read about us, bookmark us, send short messages about us and educate people about us. Share the GMCH name today!

Monday, January 5, 2009

2009, here we come!

In lieu of the New Year, here are some of the things that this past year brought some much needed joy to our families at GMCH as 2008 came and went so quickly:
  • GMCH was paid a visit from Kazzy the Camel and her friends from a pet therapy ranch
  • Another splendid Autumn Celebration on the House grounds, complete with auction, tours and memorable moments
  • Visits from the Oakland A's, policeman, fireman (and no, not for emergencies...but for fun!), musical guests, insects from a discovery lab, Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus, and more!
  • Drive & Serve for Life golf tournament, with an auction
  • Legacy's Tastes of the City soiree and auctions (the group is growing more and more into a great example of what charitable giving means at a young age)
  • Honoring our dear friend and volunteer Ellen Kalm as she was given the Threads of Hope Award from Diablo Magazine
  • Another wonderful Talent Show, complete with kids magic tricks, songs, readings, staff performances and music!
  • Pumpkin Day, complete with trick or treating and goulish snacks
  • The first and only GMCH Prom Night...under the stars

2008 was filled with fond memories for our children and their families, friends and us to make sure that we continue all of these traditions, and create more! DONATE NOW at!