The Healing Power of Home-Cooked Meals
In honor of Family Volunteer Day, Nov. 23, Points of Light and Disney are recognizing families with the Daily Point of Light Award. Meet today's winning families, the Halls and Flanagans of Pennsylvania, and nomimate someone in your community.
Lori Hall’s first son endured two heart surgeries when he was young, so the mom knows the pain and stress that comes with having a critically sick child confined to a hospital room. Hall’s cousin, Molly Flanagan, saw a friend face similar hardships when the friend’s daughter, Lydia, battled cancer and died at age 3.
“When Lydia got sick, Molly and I saw the ordeal her family went through over eight months when they had to travel long distances to be with their daughter,” Hall says. “We tried to help ease their struggle by taking home-cooked meals to the hospital and helping in other ways. That’s how Lydia’s Love Project was born.”
The nonprofit benefits families staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Lawrenceville, Pa., which provides comfortable, low-cost lodging to families with children receiving treatment at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Five times a year, these families receive a welcome and heartwarming surprise – a buffet dinner prepared and served by the Halls and Flanagans and other community volunteers. Hall and Flanagan began hosting these events in 2010.
“We don’t want this to be like another cafeteria experience for them, so we usually have around 10 main dishes, five or more kinds of salad, a variety of side dishes and at least 10 desserts,” says Hall. “It’s a big feast. We usually feed between 50 and 70 people, and there’s something for everyone. It makes it very homey.”
Then comes the after-dinner dance for children. That’s when the event turns into a true Hall and Flanagan family affair. Hall has four children: James, 14, Camryn, 10, and twins Andrew and Aidan, 7. Flanagan has a daughter Reagan, 5, and a son Jackson, 2.
“All of our kids come to the events,” says Hall. “The ones who are too young to help with the dinner take part in the kids’ dance. Each dance is as carefully planned as the dinners. We have seasonal themes, so the play area might be decorated for Halloween, or like a beach party, depending on the time of year.”
The Hall and Flanagan kids help keep the dances lively, and afterward they sit and get to know the visiting children.
“Our kids love doing it,” says Hall. “And I think it helps teach them to put others first, which is something I hope they carry through their whole lives.”
In 2012, Lydia’s Love Project was one of four grand-prize winners in the Disney Friends For Change contest. Hall and Flanagan donated their $5,000 prize to the Ronald McDonald House.
“The Ronald McDonald House is just great,” says Hall. “They’re performing an important service, but they’re also wonderful people. We are friends with the whole staff. Last January, they threw a dinner for all of us who have volunteered. It’s a great feeling to be doing something for the families there. We feel blessed to be able to help.”