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Guest Stories

Guest Stories

Every guest at Kathy’s House confronts a unique diagnosis. Their stories are often extraordinary. We are honored to be a part of their journey and to share some of their stories.

Ed & Janice Greene of Champaign, Ill. shared their story in their own words as they finished up a two-month stay in our Home.

As an independent nonprofit organization, Kathy’s House relies on the generosity of our community to make affordable lodging accessible to our guests. Your gift means that families in need of critical care can stay together.

Steve & Lilian Gong

Steve & Lilian Gong

The journey from California to Kathy’s House is neither short nor common, but for Steve & Lilian Gong of Stockton, it was worth it. “I had a mass on my pancreas,” Lilian explains. “My mass was so big, my primary doctor does not recommend any physician in our area.” Steve spent just under a month at Kathy’s House while Lilian received treatment at Froedtert Hospital. Lilian was released from the hospital after a few weeks, but during her hospital stay, Steve made three meal-time visits to his wife each day. Two adult children visited as well. We’re grateful we could help to keep Lilian’s family close while she received world-class care in Wisconsin.

I would absolutely recommend Kathy’s house to others. It’s a very well maintained facility. There’s people around, but I still feel very secure and comfortable.

Steve Gong
Stockton, Cal.
Karin Shirpke has coffee on the patio

Karin Schirpke

Karin Schirpke knows the challenges of both illness and caregiving. She faced her own COVID-19 diagnosis quarantined from her hospitalized husband and their six adult children. No one could provide her with the moral support she needed.

Her recovery was swiftly followed by a six-month stay at Kathy’s House, where Karin cared for her hospitalized husband as he battled COVID-19. Karin found Kathy’s House on the recommendation of her son.

Although Karin says caregivers are often neglected, she wanted people everywhere to know how much support and care she received at Kathy’s House.

The Justus Family

The Justus Family

Providing comfort, meal delivery, and even door-to-door wheelchair transport from Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin were all services Dan Justus delivered joyfully as his wife Sherah’s caregiver during their stay at Kathy’s House this fall. The shift in dynamics since his wife Sherah was diagnosed with osteosarcoma may sound familiar to many couples. “She’s a very determined woman. She wants to do everything herself,” Dan explains. “She always took care of me; I never took care of her. That was a hard transition for her – to give that up, accept that help.”

Accepting help was not optional, however, during the couple’s stay at Kathy’s House. While grandparents cared for their teenage children, Dan and Sherah traveled from Appleton to Milwaukee, staying at Kathy’s House during surgery and chemotherapy. What was important to them? “Little things like being close to her, being able to make food for her. Those things helped. She’s comfortable here,” Dan said. He appreciated “being able to have that relaxation, that reprieve from the normalcy of hospital patients.”

“The main things for me are the proximity to the person receiving the treatment, the cleanliness…and not [having to] worry about a $120/night stay. Being able to donate directly just for staying here is a great thing to do.”

Dan Justus
Appleton, Wis.
Cami & Julia Berglund visit with Canine Crew member Lady

Cami & Julia Berglund

When Omaha’s Cameron & Julia Berglund learned that Froedtert Hospital’s Dr. Dan Heffez was an expert on chiari malformations, they hit the road. “We’re from Nebraska, and nobody locally there has any experience with that,” Cameron said of the rare condition. They stayed at Kathy’s House for a few weeks, and both mother and daughter were astonished by the amenities at Kathy’s House. “It’s like everything you would want but way more,” Julia exclaimed. They marveled at the many small and large gathering spaces, the kitchens, and even the elevator, which made navigating stairs a non-issue. Most important, however, was the ability to focus their attention where it was needed: on healing. “Everybody is here for medical reasons. When you’re in a hotel, people are on vacation. Everyone here is here to rest and recuperate,” Cameron explained.

We are just very grateful that we were able to stay here. This is so much better than a hotel. And the dogs. That’s a really good part. It made me feel more at home.

Julia Berglund
Omaha, Neb.
Norman & Sandra Hill on the Kathy's House Patio

Norman & Sandra Hill

It’s not often that Kathy’s House hosts newlyweds. For Norman and Sandy Hill of De Pere, however, marriage was only one of several significant events this year. The couple stayed at Kathy’s House for six weeks recently as Norman underwent outpatient treatment for cancer at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Norman’s journey through treatment was not an easy one. Nausea, chills, and hair loss were all side effects that he both expected and experienced. Norman, who had not had a haircut since 1987, was prepared to lose his hair during treatment – but he was not prepared to get married without it. As a result, the couple adjusted their wedding plans. They set a date for June 9, five days after his discharge from the hospital. Norman recounts, “With what little long hair left, we got married. We’re traditional Native American Iroquois people and we dressed appropriately in our attire for our wedding. We had a very traditional Iroquois wedding.”

Norman cited his heritage on the last day of their stay. He gathered the Kathy’s House staff, saying, “I’d like to express gratitude from my heart in my language because of what you guys have done for us.” Surrounded by the silent staff, Norman spoke Cayuga words of gratitude and blessing. He then translated them into English, including these words: “You have a very deep compassion. I can say the best thing from the bottom of my heart – from our hearts – Thank you. Yes, thank you. From here on in keep your encouragement up for everyone.”

No one [at Kathy’s House] is ever alone…It’s a place of well, it’s a place of love. It’s a place of exceptionally high spiritual and moral boosting.

Norman Hill
Appleton, Wis.
Jamie Nicklas & Sandra Bonneville pose with "Mr. Bear."

Jamie Nicklas & Sandra Bonneville

Jamie Nicklas spent two months at Kathy’s House this summer, alternating with her grandfather as caregiver for her grandmother, Sandra Bonneville. In addition to her time and support, Jamie gifted her grandmother a 24-hour companion for her month-long hospital stay – inspired by a longtime family tradition.

As a child, Jamie fondly recalled traveling from her small hometown to visit her grandparents in Appleton. A particularly special treat was a trip to the local mall’s Build-A-Bear Workshop, where she and her siblings each created a unique plush friend. “On our birthdays, they would send clothing and accessories for the bear,” Jamie recalled. And Sandra continued the tradition with each new grandchild, always sending a Build-a-Bear. When Sandra told Jamie that her care team dubbed her transplant date her “second birthday,” Jamie had a realization. “It dawned on me that no one had ever given her a bear. She never had one of her own. So I was trying to think a special birthday gift to give her, and it seemed like the right thing. Now Mr. Bear just watches over her every day,” Jamie said.

We didn’t know places like Kathy’s House existed. It’s like a sanctuary.

Jamie Nickals
DeKalb, Ill.

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