Six-month-old Scarlet Griffith with a brand new heart will spend her first Christmas being helped by Steven’s Hope for Children in Upland.
“Steven’s Hope has been our heaven-sent angel,” said Alexis Griffith, Scarlet’s mother, as she held Scarlet during Steven’s Hope’s annual Christmas party Dec. 14 at the Loma Linda Springs Apartments.
The Upland-based non-profit was founded by Tony and Sandy Cappelli after losing their son Steven, 32 hours after his birth.
It provides temporary housing for families with sick children who need to be close to Loma Linda University Medical Center.
They also provide Christmas gifts to the children and their siblings through the Winter Wonderland program.
They host Christmas parties for the kids and their families every year.
“Kids want to feel normal,” said Tony Cappelli. “They need special attention at least for a while here tonight they’re going to get to be normal kids.”
Each child received a present from Santa Claus, while volunteers sneakily pack their parents’ car trunks full of toys for Christmas morning.
There was also cookie decorating, Christmas music, games and food.
Scarlet and her parents, Alexis and Vince, attended the party for the first time.
“It shows you how many people’s lives that Steven’s Hope has affected. It’s amazing,” Alexis Griffith said. “We are blessed to be part of it.”
The family is still staying in one of the non-profit’s apartments but hopes to go home in a month.
The Griffiths moved to the apartment from Las Vegas about six months ago when Scarlet was two weeks old with the hope of getting a new heart.
The family’s social worker recommended the family to Steven’s Hope.
“With those hard days in the hospital of almost losing her, being able to go home to the Steven’s Hope apartment, it was home away from home,” Alexis Griffith said. “They’re our extended family.”
Scarlet got her heart about three months ago and is still at risk for rejection and will have a heart murmur but is as feisty as can be, Alexis Griffith said.
“She’s doing fantastic,” Alexis Griffith said. “She’s three months post transplant and just a little love bug.”
Eight-year-old Xander Moncada and his family were also in attendance.
Xander, who celebrated his eighth birthday on Dec. 16, has been cancer-free for five years.
“They gave us a home. They didn’t charge us anything. They made sure we had food and taxi,” said Cheryl Huffman, Xander’s grandmother. “That’s how it started and ever since then I’ve just stayed in touch. They’re just wonderful.”
He was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 2 years old, and while his mother was more than 8 months pregnant with his younger brother.
The family stayed in one of the apartments until Xander’s treatment was finished.
“It’s not just the place to live, but the support,” Huffman said. “They’re just amazing people and the loss of their child – to turn it around and help all these other people.”