After losing her daughter to cancer nearly two months ago, Jamie Swain couldn’t have guessed that painting a door could give her so much joy.
Thing is, the door she painted is attached to the Chris Hope Family House. It’s a house for families who are, like Swain once was, grappling with the sickness and, in many cases, the impending death of children from cancer.
“About a week ago, he (Chris Hope) sends me this message saying: ‘I need this thing to be done, and I was wondering if you wanted to do it. I really want you to paint the door, because of the story of your daughter,’” Swain said.
“For me, honestly, that was the first time I had been happy to get out of the house. He gave me something to do so I wouldn’t feel so lost and alone.”
Hope, 52, was recently channeling Swain’s joy as that door she painted was opened to people to tour the refurbished, roomy bungalow in the heart of Midtown.
He wants the home to have a similar impact on the families who wind up staying there — because right now, not every family with children being treated for serious illnesses or dying from them can be together.
While St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and LeBonheur Children’s Hospital provide housing for families who have traveled from out of town to be close to children being treated for cancer and other illnesses, they have limits on how many family members can stay and how long they can stay.
“We deal with a lot of hospice kids, and because of COVID-19, it’s pretty much one parent and a child (in hospital housing),” said Hope, who works at UPS and operates his foundation on the side. “But now they (extra family members) can stay here. The first family who lives here will likely be a family to a hospice child. It can hold two families, but because of COVID-19, we’re going to start with one.”
‘I realized there was a need’
Hope, who organized his foundation in 2015, said he was inspired to do so after visiting a teenager who was being treated for cancer and overhearing the teenager’s mother on the telephone with the mortgage company.
“She had two weeks left on her treatments, and her mom was extremely upset, because they were about to lose their home,” he said.
“So, some friends of mine got together and helped raise the money to save their home. After blessing her with that and seeing her reaction, I was like, ‘We ought to be able to do this for more families.’ I was able to hear stories about pediatric cancer. I realized there was a need, and that’s how we were able to start the Chris Hope Foundation.”
Swain said that Hope certainly made a difference for her and her daughter, Abi Blankenship. He helped them do a birthday parade for her in April, she said, and his foundation has helped families like hers buy groceries and to meet other needs.
Swain, who was accompanied by her daughters Kara and Destiny, said the Hope Family House will be a blessing to help families blunt the tragedy of the sickness, and in many cases, the impending death, of a child that they love.
“One guy has a daughter in hospice and hasn’t been able to see her in six months because of the size of the family,” Swain said. “He’s somewhere else with the children, and the mom and the baby are here with the daughter, but this house is going to allow people like him to spend time here.
“That time in those last months is real special to them.”
You can reach Commercial Appeal columnist Tonyaa Weathersbee at 901-568-3281, [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @tonyaajw.
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