Help From the Heart: 2012 FamilyFun Volunteers Contest Winners

A Recipe for Compassion

The Hall Family

Haley Harned

The Hall Family
Murrysville, Pennsylvania

Lori Hall knows very well how all-consuming it is to care for a critically ill child. Her eldest son, James, had open-heart surgery when he was only a month old. So when Lori's cousin, Molly Flanagan of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, started making meals for a friend and the friend's 3-year-old daughter, Lydia, who was undergoing cancer treatment, Lori eagerly pitched in.

Lydia lost her battle, but the memory of her fight inspired Lori and Molly to launch Lydia's Love Project. The program brings home-cooked food to 40 to 50 people staying -- sometimes for weeks or months -- at the Ronald McDonald House at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

"I remember what it's like to feel as if you're living at the hospital," says Lori. "I want the families to experience a taste of home."

Lori and Molly, naturally, go for comfort foods: soups, casseroles, mac-and-cheese, and cupcakes, to name a few of the dishes they serve on a near-monthly basis. They get assistance from a rotating group of 40 families. On the afternoon before a dinner, volunteers drop off food at the Halls' house. From there, a core team of six families joins Lori, Molly, and their kids to prepare and serve the buffet at the Ronald McDonald House.

The Halls -- James, 13, Camryn, 8, and 6-year-old twins Andrew and Aidan -- frequently turn the gatherings into themed events, complete with music and dancing. A year into the program, they've hosted parties with beach, back-to-school, Halloween, and Chinese New Year themes. The Love Project families mingle with the Ronald McDonald residents, and all the kids play together, creating a sense of normalcy for the sick children during a stressful time. "I like to make the kids feel like they can have some fun and help them forget that they are in the hospital," says James.

Prize Money Plans: The Ronald McDonald House at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC

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