How to make a family that is traveling for a Make-A-Wish® trip feel at home
Organizations like Make-A-Wish® grant wishes to children overcoming critical illnesses — which can have a profound impact on their family’s ability to heal. “75% of our wishes actually include travel,” said Catie Martino, who coordinates trips for the organization. “So there’s been trips as extravagant as flying to New Zealand to see scenes from their favorite movies to swimming with dolphins and going to the beach for the first time.”
With Airbnb’s Open Homes program, you can offer a family healing from a difficult time a comfortable place to decompress and connect as a family. “While my son Liam was in the hospital getting treatment, just getting the opportunity to think about the future got him through his sickness and recovery a lot quicker,” said Amy Eyer, whose family received a trip to Paris last year to attend a golf tournament. “When we got the news that his wish was granted, he was totally ecstatic,” she said. “He’s obsessed with golf and picked one of the big tournaments, the Ryder Cup, which was in Paris that year.”
We spoke with Martino and the rest of the Eyer family about how you can create a welcoming space for a family to reconnect and regroup.
What can hosts do before the family arrives?
Catie Martino: A lot of these families don’t travel often so having hosts be there to greet them is something that gives security and a sense of comfort.
Andy Eyer, father: We’d never traveled abroad. We’ve only traveled in the U.S. or Mexico. The trip gave us a chance to explore the world as a family.
Amy Eyer, mother: Make-A-Wish sent us a very detailed itinerary with contact information, and asked if it was okay to pass along my information to our Airbnb host, Xavier. He texted me a couple days before the trip and wished us a safe flight. And then we texted him the morning we got in. There’s so many things going on and it was nice to just know that someone is expecting us.
What kind of information is helpful to provide during their trip?
Catie: It’s really great when hosts leave a nice note with a list of local stores and restaurants. Or help the family find activities to do.
Andy: Our host went above and beyond to make sure that we had a pleasant experience. He told us what is within walking distance of his home, and we got to live like locals—going to local bakeries and shops. He also mapped out public transportation for the best way to get to the tournament, so we knew exactly which bus to catch and at which stop.
Amy: He also met us when we arrived and gave us a detailed tour of the house, showing us how to work the AC and the heater, and where to do laundry. He was very thorough, and showed us where the kids could play and all around the backyard.
What kind of activities do families want to do while visiting?
Catie: A lot of these families are split up for weeks or months for treatment, so the wish experience brings the family together. Travel is a chance for the family to gather energy and get hope back. To bring comfort and normalcy.
Andy: I remember the first time Liam came out of the hospital, and after 8 straight weeks we were able to go home for a week, and then go back to start the next round of chemo. We live day by day, but we’re trying to grow as a family. Going through what we went through, our wish was really just to be a family again. I caught myself holding tears back because: holy cow, 6 months ago I didn’t even imagine this was possible—to sit down and eat dinner together.
How can I do something a little extra for the family?
Catie: Hosts do amazing things. We’ve seen hosts give a little gift that’s related to the wish. Even some groceries in the fridge, so that the family can just relax when they arrive.
Amy: Xavier bought us a bottle of champagne, picked up fresh-baked goodies, and stocked the apartment with milk and juices for the kids. He made the home very child-friendly and bought them small gifts. Even just a handwritten note though would be appreciated.
What if a medical emergency happens during a stay?
Catie: The Make-A-Wish staff will cover all bases. if there’s a situation where there would be some kind of medical treatment happening in the home, we will 100% communicate that to the host.
To be eligible for the program, all children granted wish trips are cleared by their physician to travel. Although very rare, if a medical emergency does occur on the trip, a local chapter of Make-A-Wish will communicate directly with you who to call. Some children may be traveling with medical devices or other tools needed to deliver care—but Make-A-Wish staff will double-check with you that your home is a good fit for their specific needs.
Find out how you can also open your home to people receiving medical care — as well as their family, loved ones, and caregivers.