Brent’s Place: A safe haven for children and families
A few months ago, Brent’s Place hosted a reunion dinner event for all the families living at (or who have lived at) Brent’s Place – they even had Super Healers superheroes take photos with the kids!
By Patte Smith; photo courtesy of Super Healers/superhealers.org
In the September 2019 issue of The Connection, we celebrated Greyson Saunders for being a“hero” after he had battled immunocompromising illnesses for two years. A portion of the story touched on an exceptional facility, Brent’s Place, that supported the Saunders family while they struggled. Here, we feature Brent’s Place and the family and community who supported this unique and special place for children and families.
When faced with a life-threatening illness, most individuals go into panic mode. Rightly so, but when it is a child who is ill, panic is not even the half of it. Families are overwhelmed with all sorts of emotions – fear, sadness, helplessness and anger, only to name a few.
Donn and Linda Eley experienced these emotions with the loss of their son, Brent in 1988. Brent had a fast growing malignant cancer and the family had to travel to Iowa City to live while he received a bone marrow transplant. They felt lost and alone in a strange city while going through everything, and sadly they returned home without Brent.
The Eleys made the decision to honor their son by supporting pediatric cancer programs and helping other children and their families have a “home away from home” that was close by for families. It took 10 years of reaching out to the community, and a lot of hard work by many individuals, but they achieved their goal by opening Brent’s Place in 1998 with five Safe-Clean apartments for families. Safe-Clean apartments minimize exposure to bacteria, dander, dirt, dust, mold and other airborne toxins found in public spaces.a
The Village at Castle Pines resident Walt Raynor had a business relationship with Eley in the 90s that became a close friendship. “The Eleys worked tirelessly for many years with volunteers and friends who helped organize fundraisers and get the word out,” explained Raynor. “So many people were and are still involved and committed to the idea of providing this unique type of facility in the Denver metro area. It gave all of us a lot of joy to help provide these facilities for families. And you know, there is no cost to the families who are housed there.”
“My family and I lived at Brent’s Place with our son Alex for 10 months,” said Candace Wheelock, a former resident of Castle Rock. “We were scared, lonely and had a fight-or-flight mentality. At Brent’s Place, we made friends and had a sense of community. We could relate to each other and share our thoughts and feelings. There were fun times too, and Alex learned to play the bass guitar and become an ace at shooting pool. Everyone there was our family and they went above and beyond. We are so grateful.”
Brent’s Place continues to grow and currently has three locations, including Marion House in Denver that features six apartments for adult oncology patients and their families.
Through the Eleys’ grief and determination, their mission of “providing Safe-Clean housing and improving the quality of life for children and families living with cancer and other immunocompromising conditions…one day at a time,” became a reality. It honors not only Brent, but every single person who is touched by Brent’s Place.
For information about Brent’s Place, visit www.brentsplace.org.