When Elijah was born six weeks early and airlifted to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), his parents Nicole and Jason knew he would spend time in the Harriet and Ronald Lassin Newborn/Infant Intensive Care Unit. Elijah had been born with short bowel syndrome — only 30 centimeters of his small intestine — and would require multiple surgeries. The family wasn’t prepared, however, for the financial impact of a five-month hospital stay.

It all adds up

Not only did Nicole need temporary housing near the hospital, Jason — who remained at home to care for their three other sons — regularly made the 90-minute commute to the hospital from New Jersey. There were costs associated with parking, tolls, meals — not to mention a stack of medical bills that at one point measured 2 inches high. When Jason had to take a leave of absence from work, the family’s financial situation became even more challenging.

“Having a child who is ill can be very expensive,” says Joann Duffy, MSW, LSW, Director of Social Work at CHOP. “You can’t underestimate how difficult it can be.”

Easing the burden

Thankfully, a recent alliance between CHOP and the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) Opens Doors Foundation provides grant-based assistance for families like Nicole and Jason’s. When CHOP social workers identify a family experiencing financial stress due to their child’s hospitalization, these one-time grants help cover the cost of a mortgage or rent payment, providing a little relief for families that desperately need it.

“Families are so grateful when they find out this resource is available,” says social worker Kimberly St. Lawrence, MSW. “It’s great to have such a reliable tool.”

So far, the Home Grant Program has provided over $50,000 in funding and helped more than 50 CHOP families — including Jessica and Craig, whose daughter Livia will soon go home after a six-month hospital stay.

“Without Opens Doors, we wouldn’t be able to comfortably prepare for Livia’s homecoming,” says Jessica. “This program afforded our family comfort and normalcy. We’re very grateful.”

Invaluable support

Hospitals across the country work with Opens Doors to help families. CHOP is the foundation’s first Pennsylvania-based hospital and one of the largest in its network. This collaboration is made possible by a financial commitment to Opens Doors Foundation from Freedom Mortgage and Radian Group Inc. Freedom Mortgage’s founder and CEO, Stanley Middleman, is a member of the CHOP Foundation Board of Advisors.

For parents like Jason and Nicole, the impact of Opens Doors’ support extends beyond the financial. “The program’s generosity gave our family comfort and security,” says Jason. “For someone to know what we were going through and to want to help us — the dividends of that are worth even more than the dollar amount of the grant.”

— Abbey Nash