JW House Celebrates Fourth Year of Helping Families in Need
By Melissa McKenzie
In 2008, the dream of Jan-Willem Knapen came to fruition when the JW House opened on the campus of Kaiser Permanente in Santa Clara. Unfortunately, Knapen passed away prior to the completion of construction and was unable to see his efforts become a reality. But, the young boy’s legacy continues to thrive and on September 21, JW House celebrated its fourth anniversary.
Current and past "family" members attended the event that was held to raise funds needed to keep the house running, and help with future expansion plans. JW House hopes to eventually have enough space to help every family in need of the organization’s services.
"JW House’s mission is to bring families together during a medical crisis by providing a welcoming home just steps away from the hospital," said Executive Director Jill Mitsch. "Our mission is that no family should be separated during a time when they need each other most, and in the four years we’ve been in operation we’ve served over 2,000 families. The theme of today’s event is celebrating a community that cares and you are the community that cares – our volunteers, our donors, our dedicated board members, our corporations that help JW House, the families who stay here and care for their loved ones in the hospital. We thank all of you for being a part of such an amazing dream of one boy."
In addition to a bounce house, games, and crafts for kids, there was a silent auction with items ranging from a JW House themed cookie basket to tickets to an Oakland Athletics game during the 2013 season. The organization was presented a check from the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Club for $3,500 and a $170,000 donation from Cisco.
"As I look out, I’ve had tears in my eyes all day," said JW House Manager April Bignell. "Seeing so many of our guests who spent time with us…So many people are here that we need to thank in our community…I would invite you to go up to someone you’ve never met and say thank you. You’re thanking them for so many different things – for being a volunteer, for being here today, for supporting us, for being here from Cisco or Rolling Thunder and without all of you – this whole community – we could not do what we do and we could not serve those families. This is, you are, simply amazing and as I say to our families whenever they check in and I’d like to extend this to you as well, welcome home."
Speaker after speaker, including Lateefah Simon-Weston, a current JW House guest, and Anne Marie Knapen-Asnong, Knapen’s mother, shared their stories and appreciation for JW House’s volunteers and staff.
"Thank you for being here and thank you for helping build JW’s dream," said Knapen-Asnong. "Your support, your hands, your heart, truly make the difference…We want to be able to serve everybody who knocks on our door for a home away from home during difficult times. To do this we will have to expand the house and expanding means more funds. So please, keep on being strong advocates for JW House; keep on doing what you do and certainly talk about us – talk about what we do. Invite people to visit JW House so they can see and hear and feel for themselves what we are about."
To donate, volunteer, or learn more about JW House visit www.jwhouse.org.