Losing a Child, Giving Respite, Restoring Hope – Providing Refuge for Others

By: Kristen Penfield Photo: Elisha Stasko

David PfohlLosing a child: An unspeakable experience, of pain and devastation that can be completely overwhelming. Receiving help and support is what parents need amidst caring for a special-needs child or dealing with such heartbreak. Brenda and Warren Pfohl, unfortunately, know this pain too well.

Brenda and Warren Pfohl lost their son David, at age 20, to Batten’s disease, a rare progressive disease in which he lacked an enzyme necessary to break down and remove the waste that occurs from cell activity in his neurons. He died on October 22, 2009; he fought for thirteen years. They know the turmoil that parents face in crisis. Thus, they formed David’s Refuge in honor of their son to encourage parents to keep pushing forward. Their hope is to help parents keep fighting and keep the faith for their child.

“We know what a difficult time it is for parents,” said Brenda Pfohl. “We want to provide a place of respite, free of charge for parents of children with special needs or life-threatening medical conditions where they will be refreshed, restored, and renewed in their role as caregivers. We want to love on them as heroes,” she added. The Pfohls recognized that the need for help was great. They began a refuge to provide care for the caregiver. They opened their doors in 2011, helping another couple in need. Their first year they helped 43 couples and since then, they have helped over 100 families each year and expect over 150 families this year alone.

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Brenda stated, “We originally operated out of our home in Manlius. We considered building an addition, but our view coupled with so many parents in need; we decided to partner with other Bed & Breakfast locations and now reach many more families.” “In only a few years we have grown throughout Central New York as well as Rochester and the Finger Lakes region. We have partnered with fifteen Bed & Breakfast locations, and currently have thirty three people who work with us as hosts, most of whom have walked this journey as well.” David’s Refuge has extended to Western New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and other locations along the east coast.

David’s Refuge eligibility policy can be viewed on line. No referral is needed and once accepted the caregiver can pick a date and location for a ‘getaway’ that will work with their schedule. The host couple will meet them at their destination. Brenda said, “When the host couple meets with the caregivers, much bonding occurs. It is so good to hear of others’ journeys and to gain a new perspective in their own situation.” Lifetime friendships have begun here, and families are able to meet again during the two events that David’s Refuge supplies: a family picnic as well as a date night at Eastern Hills Bible Church that has been an enormous success.

How They Thrive:
The success of David’s Refuge is due in large part on the support from many individuals, organizations, and companies that believe in their mission. The Pfohl’s are developing relationships with interested partners who will offer products and services at minimal or no cost. David’s Refuge thrives on volunteers, donations, fund-raisers and grants. The Jim & Juli Boeheim Foundation has continuously helped them grow, along with other large fund-raisers that the Pfohls rely upon.

How They Thrive:
The success of David’s Refuge is due in large part on the support from many individuals, organizations, and companies that believe in their mission. The Pfohl’s are developing relationships with interested partners who will offer products and services at minimal or no cost. David’s Refuge thrives on volunteers, donations, fund-raisers and grants. The Jim & Juli Boeheim Foundation has continuously helped them grow, along with other large fund-raisers that the Pfohls rely upon.

What the Pfohls Want Caregivers to Know:
They are not alone. What they do matters. There is a God who loves them.

For more information, please visit their website at davidsrefuge.org or call 315.682.4204. You can email Brenda or Warren Pfohl at Davidsrefuge@gmail.com. Like them on Facebook to learn more about them at www.facebook.com/DsRefuge or follow them on twitter @davidsrefuge