The McCollister’s Chapel Hill House Experience

 “The cabin is out in the middle of nowhere so it’s quiet, you can see the stars at night, there’s no light that disturbs the sky.”

“The cabin is out in the middle of nowhere so it’s quiet, you can see the stars at night, there’s no light that disturbs the sky.”

Peaceful, beautiful and relaxing.

These were the three words Mindy McCollister, whose son battled cancer, used to describe Chapel Hill House. When McCollister’s son Ian was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age four, their entire lives changed. With all of the focus on Ian’s doctors appointments and treatments, along with day-to-day housekeeping, there wasn’t much time left for family. Chapel Hill House helped give the McCollister family the distraction-free time to spend together they really needed.

The McCollisters were one of the first families to visit Chapel Hill House. Over their weekend away they enjoyed each others company without the everyday chaos. “This was a place we could go and all be together and not have hospitals and doctors. It was just to go and have fun,” McCollister said. “I just remember the feeling of it. It felt like you had gone back in time almost. Everything was so authentic in the house.” While at Chapel Hill House, they enjoyed the 72 acres of land the cabin sits on and visited the horse farm. Mindy mainly remembers the serenity of the house and its location. “The cabin is out in the middle of nowhere so it’s quiet, you can see the stars at night, there’s no light that disturbs the sky.”

“With all the hell he went through he always managed to be perky and bubbly.”

“With all the hell he went through he always managed to be perky and bubbly.”

At Chapel Hill House, their time wasn’t focused on Ian’s medical needs, Mindy got to spend her time equally with her two children, Ian and his sister Ally who was five at the time. “We’re not at home where we’re trying to do laundry or clean the house, or the kids are running off with their friends or whatever, we actually get to spend some time all together and everyone’s on a level playing field.”

Seeing as Mindy was a single parent, they didn’t have money to spend on vacation with Ian’s medical expenses. The fact that Chapel Hill House was paid for made their weekend getaway possible. “Being a single parent we don’t have money to go on vacation period, let alone when you’re going through cancer. That was a vacation for us; that was our getaway.”

While at Chapel Hill House, the McCollister's enjoyed the 72 acres of land the cabin sits on and visited the horse farm.

While at Chapel Hill House, the McCollister's enjoyed the 72 acres of land the cabin sits on and visited the horse farm.

Sadly, Ian lost his battle to cancer in 2006. Although Ian is no longer with his family, they still have the memories they made at Chapel Hill House to hold on to. Whenever Mindy visits or goes back to Chapel Hill House, she is reminded of Ian’s smile and the times they spent there. “Even though he’s not here anymore I still have those memories, and when I go back its just a comforting, peaceful place. It reminds me of him; I can still feel him there. ”

Not only did Chapel Hill House make an impression on Ian and his family, the Chapel Hill House team will always remember Ian. After the McCollister’s visit, Chapel Hill House was inspired to create their logo after Ian’s smiling face. The top represents his scar from surgery and the bottom is his smile. “His scar ended where his smiled started.”  Mindy said this saying describes Ian perfectly. “That was Ian. He was happy, silly, and had a contagious laugh,” she said.  “With all the hell he went through he always managed to be perky and bubbly.” Mindy says the more cancer children you’ll meet, you’ll realize they all have that positive personality. “It’s like a gift they’ve been given to deal with it, help what they have to go through.”

Mindy continues to be involved and help out with Chapel Hill House today. She participated in the last two motorcycle poker runs at Chapel Hill House and ran in last years Lifting Hopes Pump and Run. She hopes to get the word out and help promote Chapel Hill House because she knows that a weekend away can truly mean a lot to a family going through cancer.

To help send more families like the McCollister’s to Chapel Hill House, donate here or participate in the Lifting Hopes Pump and Run Event! Proceeds from the race go towards Chapel Hill House.


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Nancy O'Brien, O'Brien Family

"Its just so wonderful to get away from the activity of life and enjoy our family in such a peaceful and relaxing setting." - Nancy O'Brien

About the O'Brien Family

Thank you for providing a place for pediatric cancer families to visit so that they may spend a weekend together amongst the healing powers of serenity, relaxation and simple family time. Read More