We are thrilled to be announcing our Runner-Ups of the 2022 Apex Social Host Family of the Year Award. 

We'd like to thank the Brown Family, as the Runner-Up for the Apex Social Host Family of the Year Award. 

The Brown Family, who lives in San Francisco, CA, was nominated for the award by their Care Professional Philomena Schmelz-Kaeser with these loving words: 

The time leading up to the arrival was so exciting and so special. I can definitely say all the preparations for the big trip to the US was an adventure in itself. But I clearly didn't know what to expect here.  I can still remember very well when my host mother drove me to my future new home and Mason (my host sister) was already standing in front of the door so excited to finally meet me. Despite a one-week quarantine period, they had given me the best start with daily coffee chats in the front yard. The first meeting with all the family members was not without obstacles. For example, my host grandfather had to rescue me from the bathroom at our first meeting in order to get to know me. The first weeks were marked by new impressions and events that I was allowed to experience together with my host family. From the moment Jess (my host aunt) mentioned the phrase "Philomena, you have always been a part of our family" I clearly knew I had fully arrived. 

So I must say from then on I was involved in every adventure my host family had to offer. Whether it's an 8-hour road trip or a "normal" school day, it definitely doesn't get boring in my family. Mason and Avery (my twin host sisters) are two young, creative and energetic girls. During the first weeks I was shown how to dance to the songs of "Greatest Showman" for four hours. I definitely know the lyrics to every song by heart now. Besides the cool dance moves I can do now, Mason and Avery have become my best yoga partners here. Weekly we start a teaching class together and they can already hold the "tree pose" better than I can. They are both insanely curious about everything life has to offer. They like to try new things and are open to my suggestions. Whether Turkey -Trot or singing with the Uklele, I can count on my sisters. 

With Caley our "sunshine", I spend most of the day and we have grown incredibly fond of each other. Caley is the biggest inspiration for me. She gives me many opportunities to try new things together and always offers me variety. Caley needs support in most areas of her daily life, so our daily schedule includes therapy as well as recreational activities. Caley shows me every day how brave and strong she is and how she manages her daily life. Her special need  don't stop her from getting on a horse or even playing baseball. Caley is my best travel buddy, together we travel the Bay Area looking for new places to explore, and we make the most of the time we spend in the car singing along to the new hits on the radio.  Caley makes me grow beyond myself and so not only do we work together in occupational therapy, but some days she makes me become a hairdresser and other days an artist. Every day is special and different. So day after day she shows me how I can challenge her, be it walk training in the pacer with her favorite song "We are the Champions", a four week art project or a two layer keto cake.  

Let me tell you on an 8 hour road trip to San Diego through the desert landscape with five people and a dog in the van, you get to know each other very well. It isastonishing how your converstaion can start with the topic "What is your favorite food?" an end with the question "How will my wedding dress probably look like?". Since it is not uncommon that we are stuck in a traffic jam, we sometimes come up with a new game and try to guess each other's thoughts. That already provided for some laughs. Besides napping, snacking and chatting, we are all looking forward to arriving and enjoying the remaining days close to the beach. 

So I would like to give you a short insight into what I am experiencing here, with which wonderful people I am surrounded and how I have developed myself. I would like to thank my host family from the bottom of my heart, because they stand behind me in every situation and support me incredibly in everything I do. Especially my host mother who announced to me right after my arrival that she has enough love for everyone in her heart. My host family is the best family for me. I am surrounded by people who genuinely love me, acknowledge me, are there for me when I need them and provide me with lots of hugs that homesickness doesn't stand a chance. 

It doesn't feel like I'm going to work every day, it feels like I'm spending a new day with my sisters. So I know that I have found people here who are now a part of my life. Thank you so much for welcoming me as a part of this family from day one. 

My words go out to Elizabeth, Matthew, Avery, Mason, Caley and Bodhi Brown. As Maya Angelo said. "Family isn't always blood. It's the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are. The ones that would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what“

Thank you to the Brown Family for providing a wonderful home to occupational therapist Philomena.


We'd also like to thank our winner of the Host Family of the Year 2022, the Maha Family, as well as the runner up for the award, the Acosta Family.