Westfield-Based Liam's Room to Bring Comfort to Families at Morristown Medical Center
Room for chronically-ill children expected to be ready in spring.
Bringing the comforts of home to families in their time of need has been the mission of Liam's Room, a Westfield-based charity which provides support to families whose child is faced with a chronic, potentially life-limiting illness, since its beginning.
Founded by Lisa McNamara and her husband Peter as a way to honor the memory of their son, Liam, who passed away at the age of 16 months from a condition called Lissencephaly, the organization strives to create a home-like experience for children and their families by redesigning a hospital room to replicate a child's bedroom.
The first Liam’s Room opened on May 15, 2009, at Overlook Hospital in Summit, and the non-profit is proud to announce that a second will open this spring at Morristown Medical Center.
"It's very exciting to be opening a second room," said Lisa McNamara, "but at the same time we have mixed emotions because there are so many kids in situations where they could benefit from Liam's Room."
Lisa said the organization was approached by Goryeb Children's Hospital at Morristown to fund a Liam's Room facility. With two doctors dedicated to palliative care, the hospital is looking to "grow that service, with Liam's Room as its cornerstone," Lisa explained. A nurse at the hospital reported that in the last quarter of 2012 alone more than 30 families would have benefited from staying in Liam's Room, she added.
"It's astounding," she said.
Most of the children who would meet the criteria for staying in colorful and cozy room are receiving treatment at the Valerie Center at MMC, which provides comprehensive health care for children with cancer and blood disorders.
The cost to redesign a hospital room ranges between $150,000 and $200,000 and Lisa said the money comes from donations, grants and fundraisers. In the past, Liam's Room has sponspored an annual Mini-Olympics and Home Run Derby each spring in Westfield. This year, the charity will change it up and present a Home Run Derby to coincide with Westfield Baseball and Girls Softball's Opening Day, Saturday, April 13 at Gumbert Park.
"They have been amazingly supportive," said Lisa of the Westfield organizations. "We're looking forward to a great day. It's fun for kids of all ages to come out and hit as many home runs as they can."
The co-founder said as much as the organization would love to think about opening a third room someday as "it's pretty clear there's a need and families are so grateful to have that available," it takes "quite a few years" and plenty of hard work to make it happen.
"Our Board is wonderful," said Lisa. "Everyone has rolled up their sleeves and worked incredibly hard, making sure our mission gets carried out."
Liam's Room welcomes anyone interested in becoming a Board member or chairing a committee to contact the organization by emailing email@example.com
"In order to expand, we definitely need help," she said. "The more the merrier."
Eventually, Lisa said, she'd like to launch a program in which volunteers can support families by spending time with children while they're staying in Liam's Room, giving parents an opportunity to leave the hospital for a few hours if they need to take care of other things.
The nurses already have more than enough to do, Lisa said, and volunteers, who are designated and understand the situation, could sit with the children, even if they're sleeping, and parents could leave knowing they're in good care.
Construction at MMC is set to begin any day, said Lisa, and the organization hopes to celebrate the ribbon-cutting in late spring.
Since opening the first Liam's Room at Overlook Hospital, over 100 pediatric patients and their families have been admitted and met the criteria for receiving pediatric palliative care. Several of those families spent their last moments with their child there. To view their testimonials, click here.
Donations to Liam's Room are gratefully accepted. Movies, Xbox games and some larger-ticket items such as a mini-fridge or television would be appreciated for the new room. A Girl Scout Troop from Scotch Plains has already collected 300 books to form a reading library. Gift certificates to merchants in the Summit and Morristown areas are also welcome as they give families a chance to enjoy a pizza or run out to get a haircut while staying close to the hospital, Lisa suggested.
For more information, to make a donation, or learn more about volunteer opportunites, visit www.liamsroom.org.