Stories

Volunteer Spotlight: Leah Dennis

Schuttinga Family

Camp Wired Together

Schuttinga Family

Scott, Karen, Caleb, and Logan Schuttinga made a special visit to the Family Center in May to deliver a donation in memory of their beautiful daughter and sister, Cassidy. Although Cassidy lost her battle with cancer a little over five years ago, the family never forgets how much Children’s Harbor helped them in their time of need and the memories from Cassidy’s favorite day at the Family Center when she was transformed into a little princess for the “Princess For a Day” event.

The Schuttinga family journey began in Panama City when Cassidy was diagnosed with a cancerous growth at 7 1/2 weeks of age. Within hours of the diagnosis the family arrived at Children’s Hospital to begin years of treatments and surgeries. Cassidy’s medical condition and treatment routine was so severe that the family never returned to Panama City and became permanent residents in the Birmingham area.

Once in Birmingham going through treatments and surgeries with Cassidy, overwhelmed with emotion and questions, the Schuttinga family found comfort and refuge at the Family Center.

“Thank you for doing everything you do. Your organization changes many people’s lives including ours and we are very grateful. When you have a child who is severely sick in the hospital you’re mind is gone-you can’t think straight and are constantly in a state of nervousness and stress over what the future will bring. Thankfully we had a place of respite in the hospital for our family. This made all the difference, to be able to get out of our room for a little bit and have family time in a no needle, cheerful environment with no characteristics of the hospital like constant beeping noises from iv poles or the hustle and bustle of nurses coming in and out of your child’s room.

The support we received from Children’s Harbor is what needs to be done for every family that has a child who is hospitalized.”

The Shuttinga Family Favorite Memories from the Children’s Harbor Family Center inside Children’s Hospital:

  • Dad, Scott Schuttinga, will never forget the night he first learned about Children’s Harbor Family Center from a nurse who was checking in on Cassidy. “ I hadn’t had dinner yet and wasn’t really in the mood for cafeteria food so when the nurse told me about this great place called Children’s Harbor Family Center that was hosting a Family Fun Night with free pizza and fun I was just thrilled-it was just what I needed “to recharge my batteries””, said Scott Schuttinga.

  • Children’s Harbor’s licensed professional counselor, Terry, comforted Caleb through sessions that helped him cope with his family being apart for long periods of times and the absence of his beloved sister at home. For four years the longest amount of time Cassidy and mother Karen were able to be home was six weeks.

    Caleb especially loved working on his Super Hero stories with Terry. She used these mini stories as a way for the imaginative 4-year-old to process his feelings. Now one of Caleb’s favorite things to do is still writing cartoons and books. We are so happy we were there for him and helped cultivate his passion for creative writing and drawing. We suspect Caleb will one day be a huge success in the cartoon industry with all of his talents.

    “Caleb considered Children’s Harbor Family Center “his place” and loved going there when he would come visit sister Cassidy in the hospital. It was absolutely priceless and wonderful to have a comfortable place for him to run off some energy and just be a kid while being so close to Cassidy. It helped him make sense of things and feel like he had a place in the hospital with Cassidy. It was very important that we were able to have a place for Caleb to identify with so he didn’t feel left out, “ said Karen Schuttinga.

  • Mother Karen remembers how excited Cassidy would get when she visited the Family Center. She describes Cassidy as being so happy and worry free playing around in the activity rooms and doing arts and crafts with Darby, Children’s Harbor activity coordinator.

Learn more about Children's Harbor licensed professional counselors.

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How Can You Help?

The assistance Children’s Harbor receives from generous donors and active volunteers is central to carrying out our mission. Learn more about getting involved.