By Emily Williams
The Statham family is planning to spend Thanksgiving creating what they hope will become not just a holiday tradition, but a family mission throughout the year.
Brian and Andrea Statham of Mountain Brook – along with Brian’s mother, four siblings and all of the children and grandchildren – have planned to host a Thanksgiving lunch at the Joe Lee Griffin Hope Lodge to give the cancer patients who stay there during their treatments a place to celebrate the holiday, family-style.
“Both of my parents, throughout our childhoods, one of their passions was feeding the entire family,” Brian said. “Our Thanksgivings were all about turkey and sausage.”
After losing his father to cancer in January, Brian said the whole family was looking for a way to give back to local cancer patients on a personal level.
It’s something that everyone can do, according to the Stathams, and there are many ways people can provide that personal touch that makes Hope Lodge seem a bit more like home.
The Stathams arrived at the opportunity to provide a Thanksgiving meal at Hope Lodge through their support of Project 33. A 2-year-old initiative of ACS, the project allows groups to sponsor one of Hope Lodge’s 33 rooms, which are provided free of charge to cancer patients who travel to Birmingham for treatments.
“Imagine if you had to stay in a hotel for six weeks, six months or even a year? The cost is just one more worry when you have been told you have cancer,” said ACS Alabama Executive Director Libba Hardwick.
The lodge annually saves families $1.6 million on hotel expenses, according to the ACS.
“The lodge is also a great place to get to know other guests going through the same thing, and it becomes a support group,” Hardwick said.
Through sponsoring a room, Andrea said, the family was able to tour the facility and learn all the ways they could lend support to patients personally.
“When you sponsor a room, they do let the sponsor go in there and add their own touch,” Andrea said. “Putting a wreath on the door and adding something to the room. You can leave a guestbook or take a care package … just little things that make them feel more comfortable.”
Twenty of the rooms at Hope Lodge are currently sponsored. ACS’ goal is to get those last 13 rooms claimed before the end of the year. But even people who don’t sponsor rooms can provide personal touches.
“Cards and letters are always appreciated and are uplifting,” Hardwick said. “A blanket they can take with them to chemo treatment or in the car is always nice, and most nights, a meal is provided by an organization. You can call to get on the calendar to serve a meal.”
Spearheading the preparations for the meal that the Stathams will be serving is Brain’s mother, Andrea said. The plan is to provide a traditional Thanksgiving menu with great turkey, all of the classic sides and maybe a HoneyBaked ham.
“This meal is something that Brian’s mother is very much excited about and passionate about, for her late husband,” Andrea said.
Andrea hopes this is the first of many meals her family will provide, and she hopes giving their children an opportunity to develop a strong relationship with Hope Lodge in honor of their late grandfather will inspire continued support from future generations of the Statham family.
“The fact that we can involve all of the grandchildren and great grandchildren in this process is important to us,” Andrea said. “Hopefully they can help serve the meal and visit with the residents.”
Brian’s mother said her husband developed an appreciation for Hope Lodge while being treated for cancer, and he often spoke about the people he saw who were alone and could not have someone fighting alongside them at all times.
“It would have made him very pleased that we’re doing this in his name, that we’re able to do something for those who don’t have their family with them, or maybe don’t have an appetite,” Brian said, “that he was able to in some way give back.”