In 2002, Faith, Hope & Charity's Auxillary Board, now our Special Friends Program, was created to pair members of the community with children here in our care facility. At that first meeting thirteen years ago, forty volunteers signed up to open their hearts for a special child. Tracee Dierenfield was one of the forty present at that first meeting, and she has been sharing her heart and her family with Danielle ever since.
During a recent visit, the Dierenfield family sat down to share their experience in the “Special Friends” program. As Russ, Tracee, Grace and Holly accompanied Danielle to our family room, it was obvious that they are much more than friends. They are family. In a lively conversation filled with lots of smiles and laughter, Danielle and the Dierenfield’s shared their story…
“Mary Sorenson-Ludwig [former Development Director at FHC] got a group of us together for a meeting, wanting to line up a friend for each child, just for birthdays and Christmas,” Dierenfield says. “I asked to be paired with someone that would be a good match for Grace, who was five at the time.” Another five year girl, Danielle, was paired with the family and their friendship began.
While the family have shared birthdays and Christmases as the initial plan suggested, they have enjoyed so much more. The Dierenfield's have joined Danielle for events and activities here at Faith, Hope & Charity, decorating pumpkins at Halloween, making cookies or other crafts. They are also there for her when she isn’t feeling well, and receive calls from staff to let them know when Danielle isn’t well and can use a little extra cheering up. “When she had back surgery, we were able to go down and visit her in Iowa City,” Russ adds. While staff may call on her behalf, Danielle herself calls Tracee occasionally. “I like it when you call me. You like it too, don’t you?” Tracee asks. “Yeah!” Danielle answers with a grin.
The visits aren’t just one way either. Danielle has visited the Dierenfield’s home over the years, and often accompanies them to the girls’ activities. “She’s come to choir concerts, dance squad and homecoming,” Grace says while Russ adds, “Tracee will call and ask, you know, because we’re unable to take her by herself. Staff has to come with her when we take her, and they’ve always been really great about it.”
While we conclude the interview the family is making plans to have Danielle join them for a production that Holly is involved in; another opportunity for these Special Friends to share their lives and their hearts.