The recent Kiwanis International convention (ICON) in Indianapolis was one of those rare celebrations that you wish every member of the organization could experience. It was the centennial anniversary of Kiwanis – one hundred years of distinguished service to the families of the world. Celebrate we did! We were also honored to witness the ascension of the first female to the office of Kiwanis International President. Congratulations Sue Petrisin from Michigan! You have an open invitation to visit Kiwanis Family House as part of your international travels during the coming year.
For those of us who staff the Kiwanis Family House exhibit booth at ICON each summer and tell our story to Kiwanians from other parts of the world, this year’s trip was pivotal for another reason. For the first time, I left the convention feeling as though there is a good chance folks in another district will attempt to replicate what we have done in California-Nevada-Hawaii and build a house to lodge families dealing with serious illness or injury. I won’t identify the location because I don’t know whether they are ready to formally announce their intentions. However, they told us about a children’s hospital under construction that is proximate to their Kiwanis district office. They told us that their Kiwanis membership includes interested physicians and, notably, the president of the hospital foundation. They conveyed a confidence that they could raise the funds to build their version of Kiwanis Family House. But, they acknowledged, they will need help establishing policies, procedures, and systems to operate their service facility. We exchanged business cards.
To our new friends who are embarking on this sizable challenge, Cal-Nev-Ha’s Kiwanis Family House is ready, willing, and able to support you by sharing our 31 years of experience and expertise. We are prepared to be part of your project team. Our house is your house. We also understand that local circumstances will present you with different challenges and different opportunities than we have faced. In that regard, supporting you should bring new perspectives for us and I find that very exciting.
During the convention, we talked to people from a couple of other regions who said they wanted to take our materials home and talk to their district leadership about starting a program similar to ours. They spoke about the need in their areas. We have had numerous conversations like these over the years, yet there still is only one Kiwanis Family House. Finally, that may change.
I often allow my vision to wander without restriction. In the wake of conversations I had in Indianapolis, I can see a Kiwanis International that is respected around the world for its network of lodging facilities that serve as safe and comfortable places of respite for families navigating medical crisis. Could this be part of our organization’s brand in the next century? I am too emotionally invested in Kiwanis Family House to offer a realistic answer.
Maybe I should ask President Sue Petrisin and her successors, President-Elect Jane Erickson from Nebraska-Iowa, and Vice-President Jim Rochford from Illinois-Eastern Iowa what they think.