Volunteer Feature: Teen Miss Carrington Harris

We’re sending a big ‘Alyssa House Hug’ to volunteer Carrington Harris, the 2017 Dogwood Festival Teen Miss.

Throughout her reign as Teen Miss, Carrington provided Welcome Bags filled with toiletries, games, and goodies to every single child that stayed at The Alyssa House.

The Dogwood Festival is near and dear to our hearts, as our own Alyssa was named an Honorary Dogwood Festival Princess during her fight with osteosarcoma.

We met up with the 16-year-old Carrington to learn a little more about her inspiration to help children in medical crisis.

“I first met Alyssa when I was Preteen Miss Dogwood festival and Alyssa was the 75772_278848698900589_1760146796_nHonorary Princess. We did several events and Parades together.  We were the same age.

Spending half my time in and around Fluvanna County, there were always stories of Alyssa and her impact in the community. We all followed the family and were excited when The Alyssa House came to life.

Knowing and spending time with Alyssa and watching her battle with cancer, I knew the least I could do was to help other kids and their families as they battled for their child’s life.

The Carrington Project was created after my Grandfather Spanky Harris lost his battle with lung cancer in October 2013.  I knew then I wanted my platform to be in the fight against cancer.  Being so young my self and seeing kids and babies fight for their lives, I knew I wanted to concentrate on childhood Cancer and diseases.

I spent an evening with Lynn (Alyssa’s mom) talking about Alyssa, their journey as a family, and what was beneficial. After that I came up with the Welcome Bags.  I heard from a lot of families about how hard this fight is on the siblings of a treating child.  This is why I also make sure that all children in the family receive a bag personalized to what they like and their interests.


My message to the kids and families that come into the Alyssa House is to be brave, be strong, and keep up the fight!
We are here to love and support you… We are all in this together in the fight against cancer and childhood illnesses.”

Fundraiser: Sugar & Salt!

edit-IMG_1143.jpgWe love our community! The wonderful people at the local confectionery Sugar & Salt raised almost $500 for The Alyssa House at their St. Patrick’s Day”Sugar-Pa-Looza” event!

We’re looking forward to another chance to work with this small local business!

Many, many thanks to everyone who came out to support us! You help make The Alyssa House possible.edit-IMG_1179.png

If your business or organization is interested in partnering with The Alyssa House for a fundraiser, please feel free to contact us at TheAlyssaHouse@gmail.com!



Dancing for Joy

Thanks to our friends at Wilson School of Dance for bringing some joy to The Alyssa House. The local dance studio provided a free private dance class for our Alyssa House family!

Medical issues caused Layla to miss months and months of her own dance classes at home. Alyssa’s Mommy (who is also a dance teacher) was delighted to give her a private lesson before she heads home!

Thank you for caring about The Alyssa House.


As many know, our namesake Alyssa loved to dance.



Open House: One Year Anniversary

“I can only TRY to express how thankful we are to the Alyssa House family for allowing us to have stayed here during the most difficult time of our lives.  This house became home to me and my kids for three months.  It was exactly what we needed to help us get through this time.” – Nikki

As we quickly approach the holiday season, the gratitude expressed above by the mother of our second family is identical to how I am feeling about our amazing community of supporters.  It’s hard to believe that today marks one year since our open house to introduce the public to The Alyssa House and begin the final push toward becoming operational.  At the time, it was a small but momentous step as the spark of an idea blossomed into reality.  But that was just a hint at what was to come, with the start of 2017 welcoming our first family!

Since that time, we have had five families call The Alyssa House home, with their stays ranging from two weeks to three months.  Each has been able to use the house in a manner that best suits their family’s needs, but all have been able to relay on clean, free, and safe housing because of you.

Whether assisting with a house reset, helping to beautify the grounds, baking a casserole, washing laundry, supporting ongoing house operations through donated supplies, coordinating an independent fundraising event, attending one of our various fundraising events, or sending your thoughts and prayers to our families, you have stepped up in innumerable ways.

Because of you, we’ve had more than 10 successful community events to raise awareness and funds.

Because of you, we’ve had more than 40 volunteers contribute their time and talents to our efforts.

Because of you, we’ve had more than 50 donors make financial contributions to support our operations.

And most importantly, because of you we’ve ensured that five families have had an oasis during times of acute crisis and despair.  What our families and their children have endured breaks my heart.  But I do find a measure of comfort in knowing that collectively we are honoring Alyssa’s legacy by ensuring that family and love is the root of all we do.  

Our mission is to provide housing and holistic care to families of children in medical crisis while they are away from their local community.  At a deeper level, we strive to surround each family that stays with us in grace, compassion and comfort, allowing them to be together and fully focused on, and present with, one another during even these most traumatic of times.  

While we surely need your continued support through advocacy, prayers, and volunteerism, the stark reality is that we can only continue to do all of this at no cost to our families with your financial support.  I hope that during this holiday season you will consider making a financial contribution, within your means, to help ensure that we enter 2018 well-positioned to continue supporting families.

On behalf of our staff and Board of Directors, I thank each of you for your continued support of The Alyssa House.  May you and yours have a safe and joyous holiday season and please know that all of us are deeply grateful for your compassion and resilience in taking this journey by our side.  


Ryan Jacoby
Chair of The Alyssa House Board of Directors



Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. For many of the families that stay at The Alyssa House– as well as for the family of our namesake- Childhood Cancer month doesn’t just last the length of September. It’s Every. Single. Day.

Pediatric cancers are grossly underfunded, with less than 4% of the tax-payer funded National Cancer Institute’s budget going towards childhood cancer.

Childhood cancer isn’t as rare as you think. One in 285 kids will be diagnosed with cancer before the age of 20.

The average age of diagnosis is only 6 years old.

Childhood cancer is the leading cause of death by disease for children under the age of 15.

At The Alyssa House, we believe our children are worth more. We need your help to ensure these facts become a thing of the past.

We aim to educate, support families, and fight for a future where no child will ever have to suffer. We hope you’ll join us.img_5425



*Facts provided by our friends at Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, another organization named after a child taken too soon by cancer.

About Alyssa

Alyssa Grace Divers, a sparkly firework, burst on to the scene February 25, 2002 in Charlottesville, Virginia.  Brilliant and beautiful, Alyssa was a voracious reader who loved nature, dancing, singing, gymnastics, dolphins, horses and a good play on words.  A delightful child, clever beyond her years, she loved verbal parring and enjoyed pointing out errors in grammar (on signs in the hospital, for example,) or the oddities of language. Kind and gentle, with a heart of pure gold, she also loved animals and became a vegetarian as soon as she realized the “chicken” in her baby food was “chicken.”

An honorary Dogwood Festival Princess, Alyssa participated in two parades and was looking forward to singing for the April 2013 breakfast in her honor when she died at her home on Monday, December 31st, 2012 after a fierce, unrelenting two year battle with osteosarcoma.

Alyssa was in tap class with her Mommy (who was her teacher) when she indicated that her knee really hurt.  That pain turned out to be a fractured growth plate because of a mass growing in her distal femur. While Alyssa’s tumor was caught early and not terribly big, she suffered a fracture through the tumor spreading the disease throughout her body. Alyssa’s leg was rebuilt and she learned to dance on it again only to discover her final week of a 40 week chemo protocol that the tumor had regrown. The cancer that Alyssa had turned out to be therapy resistant – a term that means the chemo didn’t kill it.

At MD Anderson Cancer Center, Alyssa permitted the medical team to pioneer a new amputation surgery to try to salvage a residual limb as well as rid her body of the cancer. Tragically, the cancer was too aggressive. 38 hospitalizations and less than seven months from the amputation, cancer had invaded Alyssa’s lungs to the extent that her body could not survive any longer. With her Mommy, Daddy and Sissy sleeping close by, Alyssa was stolen from this world.

She is survived by her parents, Laura Lynn Litchfield Divers and Jeffrey Alan Divers, her little sister, Alexa “Lexie” Noelle Divers as well as all four grandparents and many beloved aunts, uncles, cousins and dear friends, her bunny, Snowball- and a local and global community that loved her deeply.

In spite of all of that, in her final months, Alyssa didn’t let cancer stop her from doing what she wanted. She enjoyed a trip to Miami to swim with dolphins, to Atlantis for a tropical vacation, and even to New York to experience the Rockettes, Broadway and the Nutcracker at the Lincoln Center. New to horseback riding in October, just two weeks before Alyssa died in December, with only one leg, Alyssa won a blue ribbon in her first horse show in the walk and jog class on her favorite pony, Leo. As an amputee, Alyssa continued weekly dance lessons, working on a duet with her Mommy which she hoped to perform in the Spring Performance of 2013. Together, Alyssa and Lexie put many miles on the two swings in their front yard. Best friends, sisters and playmates, Alyssa and Lexie shared a remarkable relationship of imagination, play, living room dancing, tea parties and fun. When settling in at night, Alyssa’s favorite activity was “read time” with her beloved Papi/Daddy.

What stands out most about Alyssa was deep abiding love for her family.  Her favorite thing was “to live” so she could spend more time with her Mommy, Papi and Sissy.  In her battle against cancer she willingly committed to either embracing or sacrificing whatever was necessary because, as Alyssa put it, “if there is a chance, I have to take it.” Her determination and conviction were unsurpassed.

Those blessed to know Alyssa expressed awe and wonder at her journey, her beauty and her brilliance.

Alyssa left us all wanting more.

The Alyssa House

The Alyssa House, named for ten year old Alyssa Grace Divers, will be a hospitality house providing affordable housing to families of children in medical crises who are not from the local Charlottesville area but who are in active medical treatment.  Plans are to open late spring 2016.2013-09-25-1Alyssa Grace Divers was a fierce firework who radiated love and wit – and her love for dolphins, dance and books – but not in that order. Diagnosed with osteosarcoma just two weeks before her 9th birthday, Alyssa bravely endured surgeries, a leg amputation and 38 hospitalizations trying to outlive the cancer that invaded her body and her life. Tragically, the disease stole Alyssa from her family and this world on New Year’s Eve, 2012.

During Alyssa’s two years of treatment, the Divers’ family (Jeff, Lynn, Alyssa and Lexie) had to seek medical care far away from their home community in an effort to save Alyssa’s life.  In so doing, they realized the importance of generous hospitality by strangers to a family in crises.

Alyssa’s beloved church, Sojourners United Church of Christ, in a gift to Alyssa’s memory offered to work towards creating Alyssa House: Offering Grace to Body and Spirit as a way for Alyssa’s light to shine and make others’ world a little brighter.

Alyssa House seeks to meet the needs of families in crises as generously as possible. In true Alyssa fashion, nothing is more important than family.

We welcome you to join our Alyssa House family.