A small toy frog sits on the desk of Home for Healing Executive Director Kristin Trulock. She picks it up, smiles and says a guest of the home, a young cancer patient, passes out plastic frogs to symbolize “Fully Relying On God.” She says you can often see them on the desks of nurses and receptionists at UAMS.
One of the frogs ended up at the door of a NICU mom whose son wasn’t improving.
“The mother took the frog and put it in the baby’s bed and said, ‘This is between you, God and the frog. We need you to get better, but it’s OK if you need to let go.’ And that night,” Trulock says, “the baby turned the corner, and has always had the frog in its bed since.”
Inspirational stories like this are common at the organization. Formerly known as The Family Home, Home for Healing recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. Conveniently located across from the UAMS campus, Home for Healing is a lodging facility for cancer patients and their caregivers, as well as ICU and NICU caregivers.
The facility currently has 10 rooms for cancer patients upstairs and five rooms downstairs for ICU and NICU caregivers. Each floor also has a full-service kitchen and a living space for guests to utilize, while a serenity garden and meditation room provide peaceful atmospheres for guests to unwind.
Home for Healing services guests from CARTI, UAMS, Arkansas Urology and several other medical sites in the city. There are a few aspects, according to Trulock, that set them apart from other lodging facilities.
“We’re the only lodging facility that I know of that’s free for family members with a loved one in ICU,” she says. “The visitors can also stay for as long as they need to. Our longest cancer patient was here for two years, and our longest NICU patient was here for 11 months.”
The nonprofit also lifted the 50-mile radius rule that others have in place.
“We saw a need from people in Jacksonville, Conway, Hot Springs and other places that were just on the cusp distance-wise,” Trulock says. “They still didn’t have transportation or funding for gas — or they were just too sick to get back and forth — so we lifted that rule to serve them, too.”
In the past, visitors had to meet SNAP qualifications to lodge with Home for Healing, but Trulock says they removed the monetary restriction as well after seeing the financial drain long-term lodging had on patients from all backgrounds.
Funding for the organization itself comes from donations, sponsorships and grants. It also has an Amazon Wish List that allows supplies to be shipped directly to the facility, and volunteers are always needed for a variety of tasks around the home.
Chris Johnson, Home for Healing board member and its 2023 Volunteer of the Year, will be honored at another of its fundraisers, the annual Golf Classic on April 28.
“I was surprised,” Johnson says. “Through my work with the home, it’s never been about me — it’s been about what best benefits the home and what benefits the visitors to the home and how I can plug in strategically to help the executive team maximize their benefit to the community.”
Johnson and tournament co-chair Neil Day got involved with Home for Healing at different times, but each when personal experiences lined up with its mission. Johnson was familiar with the organization through his brother Scott, who served on the board, and then a friend’s cancer diagnosis brought that need to top of mind. Similarly, Day was collaborating with coworkers at Simmons Bank on a video for another of the nonprofit’s events when his thoughts turned to his then-pregnant wife and all the “what-ifs,” and he signed on to help long-term.
“When you come to [Home for Healing], you can focus on your treatment or your baby being in the hospital,” Johnson says, rattling off the laundry list of amenities provided on site. “It takes every worry you’d have outside of your treatment and allows you to focus on that.”
“And why not continue moving forward and growing and providing additional resources to the guests of the home?” Day adds. “Because it is truly a place of peace, and it’s special.”
The annual tournament is where Johnson (whose brother helped launch the event) and Day invest much of their energy, the price point for which helps differentiate it from other fundraising efforts.
“Our main events are reasonably priced for a big company, but it’s also affordable for a mom-and-pop business to play in our tournament,” says Johnson, who notes the four-person team entry fee will power one room of the facility for an entire year, covering electricity, cable and other amenities. “That’s a tangible asset on who we are servicing. If you look at the big picture, that’s a low cost for a company or individual to allocate for a year.”
For Day, his past experience and connections as a PGA professional help make these types of events a success, especially while aiming for a $46,000 goal.
“I looked at the financials and the progression of past fundraising, and I think by implementing a few new approaches, we can get there,” he says. “There are so many areas throughout this event that you can maximize upon, and it’s just about identifying those. And with my experience, I’m going to continue to be clued in to new and great things that can help this organization raise money for their mission.”
In terms of that mission, expansion is on the long-term goal list, but the current focus is on bringing in more programming for the guests Home for Healing presently serves.
“We want all the guests of our home to leave stronger, more confident and happier,” Trulock says. “We want to teach them what they need to know to be able to go back to their communities and be a working part of that community, as well as show them what their options are and help them work through it.”
Many guests have lost jobs and housing because of long hospital stays, but Home for Healing is working to bring in support groups, financial aid advisors, legal advisors and other specialized programming to serve not only the guests, but the larger community.
That focus on guests’ well-being is felt throughout the facility, already rippling out in ways they can’t imagine.
During a recent meeting at the home, Trulock heard laughter coming from down the hall in the NICU kitchen and quieted the meeting just to listen.
“The guests had all cooked a big meal together,” she says. “They came together and laughed, and that is what this is all about.”
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