The Alexandra Ellis Caring Cabin, nestled on 24 acres of serene woods just outside of Pacific City on the Oregon Coast, is one of many ways the Children’s Cancer Association (CCA) based in Portland prescribes joy as a powerful medicine for children and families facing serious illness.
Diane Slaughter’s 6-year-old son Mason was undergoing treatment for leukemia during their stay. The Caring Cabin offered a welcome escape in a place designed for families just like them, fully equipped with all the comforts of home.
“It’s like you walk into your own home, but it’s clean,” Slaughter laughed. “You truly do not worry if it’s clean enough for your cancer kid to be there.”
Slaughter said she and her family enjoyed everything about their time at the cozy beach house and really appreciate CCA’s efforts to bring loved ones together in a peaceful, playful, healing and normalizing setting.
Regina Ellis, CCA founder and CEO, said the Caring Cabin is “the only one of its kind that we know of in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a home for extended family to share memories and to kind of be bathed in the power of nature – that healing power and its ability to reduce stress and anxiety and impact our immune system – not only that of the child facing cancer, but their entire family.”
Ellis founded CCA in 1995 after her 5-year-old daughter Alexandra died of cancer. The Caring Cabin was built in 2006 through the support of friends, foundations and businesses that donated nearly $1 million in cash, goods and services, and even the land itself.
“It certainly was a beautiful dream of the Children’s Cancer Association to respond to local children and families here in our community that were facing cancer and serious illness,” she said.
Nearly 4,000 family members have visited since the doors first opened. In 2015, CCA began a remodel to update the space and refresh the facilities.
Ellis said the recently completed project was made possible through community support led by Anna Kimmel of Finley Grace Design, who contributed and inspired over $200,000 in goods and services to make the next phase of the Caring Cabin dream a reality.
“We truly believe in CCA’s mission to provide joy and we let that guide us in our design process,” Kimmel said. “We wanted the cabin to be a restful, joyful retreat. We approached the refresh with an intent to provide a light, cohesive, hard-wearing and family friendly design with plenty of whimsy.”
Kimmel said she is especially proud of the community network that came together in support of the remodel, that included a completely renovated interior design, new marble kitchen countertop, lights down to the lake, new patio furniture and an outdoor fire pit with a wheelchair-accessible pathway.
“On our install day, this support was visually apparent when two huge trucks pulled up to the Cabin with all the goods that had been donated or deeply discounted, along with a team of volunteers to help install,” she said. “It was a pretty overwhelming sight.”
During their four-day retreat, Slaughter said her son found the strength and determination to climb the Pacific City sand dunes with his family. Everyone helped each other, she said, and in a feat that may have been possible because of the caring and supportive atmosphere of the cabin–Mason willed himself to the top.