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Zafia’s Family House, a home away from hospitals

Granite Bay nonprofit aims to build shelter for families fighting long-term illness
By: Andrew Westrope,
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ZAFIA’S FAMILY HOUSE

P.O. Box 1361

916-212-5920

www.zafiasfamilyhouse.org

 

GOLF TOURNAMENT & DINNER DANCE

for Zafia’s Family House

When: 12 noon Friday, Oct. 27

Where: Granite Bay Golf Club, 9600 Golf Club Dr., Granite Bay

Cost: $300 four-player scramble, $500 to sponsor

Register at zafiasfamilyhouse.org/events.aspx

Anyone who has been so close to a long-term illness knows the drill: days and weeks in grey hospital rooms, sleepless nights at bedside chairs, indefinite stints in the ICU.

When Robert and Rebecca Fyfe of Granite Bay were holding their daughter Zafia’s hand through the final stages of bone cancer in 2006, they were exhausted, and she knew it. Zafia, 14, imparted a dying wish — that her parents would build a rest home to shelter other families coping with long hospital stays.

More than 11 years later, the Fyfes have established a nonprofit, Zafia’s Family House, and fundraising is underway but far from over. Construction awaits money. They bought land for the house more than a year and a half ago, at 1623 Santa Clara Dr., Roseville, and they’re hosting a fundraiser Oct. 27 at Granite Bay Golf Club.

Rebecca traces the genesis of the project to her daughter’s altruism, evident even from a young age.

“We fell in love with Zafia the first time we saw her. She was a petit little girl, with exotic hazel eyes and a captivating smile that immediately warmed our hearts,” Fyfe says in a video on zafiasfamilyhouse.org. “We were so excited to bring our daughter home to America.”

Adopted from Uzbekistan, Russia in 1995 at the age of 3, Zafia attended schools in Granite Bay and planned to go to college to become a pediatrician.

In 2004, at age 12, pain and swelling in Zafia’s right knee led her to the hospital, where doctors discovered they were symptoms of osteosarcoma.

Fyfe said her daughter fought the disease for two years at various medical facilities, during which time Zafia effectively lived in hospitals for a total of nine months. Some of that time Rebecca and Robert spent at Ronald McDonald House in San Francisco, staying for a week around Zafia’s first surgery right after her initial diagnosis. The house gave Zafia an idea months later, when treatment brought them closer to home but not to comfort.

“She knew what it was like for us to sleep in a hospital, live out of plastic bins and travel back and forth,” Fyfe says. “Before she passed away, she said, ‘Mom, I want you to do something for (kids with cancer), and I don’t know what it is, but one of the ideas that I do have (is), why don’t you build a house? Do something to help the people out, especially the children.”

Zafia died July 1, 2006, and the Fyfes created their foundation in 2011 to implement her vision. Every year since then, more fundraisers have brought it closer to life.

Rebecca describes the goal as a “temporary home away from home” for families coping with illness — a house, more than a sterile hotel, near local hospitals for families to stay overnight with minimal donations if possible.

Fyfe said it will be a two-story home with 12 to 14 bedrooms, serving long-term patients and relatives from nearby Sutter and Kaiser hospitals, which have many stroke and cancer patients, infants in intensive care and a general need for alternatives to hospital beds and chairs.

“When you’re in the hospital day in and day out, you’re committed to that person that’s critically ill. You’re tired, you’re stressed, you’re worried, you’re scared … so the house is a place you can get away from that clinical environment, get away from the doctors and machines and beeping,” Rebecca says. “Families can stay where while the child is critically ill, hospitalized, or if you have a critically ill adult family member, they could stay at the house with minimal donation. And if you cannot afford to pay for a donation, they don’t have to pay.”

Fyfe estimates she’ll need at least $2 million to build the house and maintain its operations for the first few years. She has an architect, the elevation studies are done, Dave Cook is the developer and they’ve already started the process of having easements and entitlements approved, Fyfe says.

Zafia’s Family House has held annual dinner dance fundraisers each April at Morgan Creek Golf Club in years past; but this year Granite Bay Golf Club has volunteered to host a tournament Oct. 27, all proceeds from which will go to the nonprofit. Costs are $300 for a four-player scramble and $500 to be a sponsor.

Fyfe said people can help make Zafia’s dying wish a reality by volunteering, participating in these fundraisers or making donations at www.zafiasfamilyhouse.org.