The Sunday Series (19): Believe in Tomorrow
“I worked for the University of Maryland and I was assigned to the Shock Trauma center for a three month period of time. The pediatric oncology clinic was on the same floor and as you left Shock Trauma, you would see the oncology clinic. I had never really seen sick kids before, I was in my mid 20’s and wanted to do something a little more positive with my life, so I started volunteering and became very interested in the gaps which existed in providing services to families.”
Those are the words of Brian Morrison, who more than 30 years ago, had a wish. He put time into that wish, turned it into a dream and made that dream a reality, a reality called Believe in Tomorrow. (http://www.believeintomorrow.org/)
For more than half his life, Brian has championed the cause. He formed the Believe in Tomorrow Foundation and set up a hospital housing facility for critically ill children and their families… children who are receiving treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. But that is just scratching the surface of what makes the foundation unique.
What truly sets the Believe in Tomorrow Foundation apart, is the opportunity it offers to give families a break. A break from what at times seems like a never-ending cycle of treatment, worry and fatigue. It began with a single condo on the beaches of Ocean City, Maryland. “In 1986 we started renting condos at the beach”, says Brian “and made them available to critically ill children and their families we were seeing at the University of Maryland Hospital and Johns Hopkins. In 1986 we only had one condo, in 1987 we had three and there were six by 1988.” But Brian and his team wanted to do more – if they could make an entire facility like that available to families, they could fill a huge void. The centerpiece of Believe in Tomorrow was born.
The whole point of the respite facilities are for the families and their critically ill child to experience a time away from the rigors of daily treatments and the incredible stress of that daily existence. Brian says, “we believe by doing so, by creating normalcy during a very abnormal experience, it does have a powerful impact on the healing process.”
Right now there are three such facilities in Ocean City, with one planned for Bethany Beach, Delaware and another down in Florida. There is even a respite house up in the mountains at Deep Creek Lake and another down south in Asheville, North Carolina. Since 1986, thousands of critically ill children and their families have used the respite homes free of charge, to renew their energy and their spirit.
Brian says the goal of these award-winning facilities is simple, but sometimes that which seems simple is the most challenging to accomplish. The team from Believe in Tomorrow want the families to walk into these places and say “Wow.” At the beach, the condos are beautifully decorated so that everyone who arrives can enjoy and get a great night’s sleep. Brian says, “it’s very common for families to arrive and experience extraordinary things.” The respite facilities tend to amplify the good feelings you have when you go on vacation. About 90% of the children who come to the respite homes are oncology patients who are facing an uphill battle and want nothing more than a chance to be distracted by beautiful surroundings. “We really are striving every day”, says Brian, “to make a positive difference in the lives of both critically ill children and their families by creating this high level of service for them and this level of service gives them hope and comfort and the opportunity to believe in tomorrow.”
The families appreciate the time away: “The long weekend was so relaxing and peaceful. Knowing that we could get away from the stress of having a child with cancer, and just be a family enjoying our time together was something we will remember for a long time.” – The Family of Taylor, age 3, battling leukemia.
Like most non-profits, the goal is to raise funds and get donations to keep the program going. Brian says the Believe in Tomorrow foundation looks to develop partnerships with corporations, individuals and others, not just for dollars, but also contributed services and materials. In 1993, the Believe in Tomorrow House at Johns Hopkins Hospital was built by 360 companies and 3,000 skilled workers who volunteered their time and materials…everything from steel, bricks, and mortar to get the building finished and ready for the families and their children who so desperately need the services.
In 2006, Believe In Tomorrow opened the door on a highly unique hospital housing facility. The Believe In Tomorrow House at St. Casimir serves as the first stand alone hospital housing facility in the country which caters exclusively to pediatric bone marrow transplant patients. It is the first and only facility of its kind. And the giving continues.
For Brian Morrison this is a labor of love. He says he gets a tremendous amount of enjoyment out of doing things which make a difference. And he loves the difference a group can make when they combine their efforts and work toward a common goal. “I absolutely love the spirit of people who show up to volunteer. When you can find where their talents lie and how they can help, magical things can happen.”
That is the ultimate goal, to make magic. Though tomorrow is never promised, for those who need it most, the foundation gives them a reason to believe.
Mark Brodinsky, Author
The #1 Amazon Best-Seller: It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story
The Sunday Series with Mark Brodinsky. Real Stories of Courage, Hope & Inspiration, Volume I