Tommy’s Place

This week’s Tuesday Takeaway is the second of a two-part series – my first ever split takeaway!
If you haven’t read last week’s, check it out here!

Tommy’s Place is “A home away from home for kids fighting cancer”. Tommy’s Place is located in Falmouth, Massachusetts at the former historic Elm Arch Inn. Families will be able to visit the home, one family at a time, for up to one week – free of charge. Where did Tommy’s Place come from and how did it come together?

“Little did I know at the time what an impact that it would have on the rest of my life, but way more importantly than that what an impact that it had on little Grifyn and his entire family.  […] That experience touched me so deeply that it is now my goal to share his story and memory with many more kids and their families fighting childhood cancer through the opening of a dream vacation home for kids battling cancer. This vacation home is being dedicated in memory of Grifyn Sawyer.”
– Tim O’Connell

Tim O’Connell is the founder, leader and heart behind the nonprofit, Tommy’s Place. Tim’s vision was derived from a chance encounter over ten years ago that left a mark on Tim forever. Tim is a successful developer; building and renovating properties for decades however Tommy’s Place is a project unlike any other he’s completed. Over ten years ago, a friend asked Tim if he would be willing to donate his home on Martha’s Vineyard for a week to provide a vacation respite for the family of Grifyn Sawyer. Grifyn was a young boy stricken with cancer – Tim didn’t hesitate to oblige and it changed his entire world. Grifyn lost his battle on December 26, 2007 shortly after a memorable trip to Martha’s Vineyard. Grifyn’s family relayed to Tim the lasting value of family time and memory-making that their week on Martha’s Vineyard provided. Grifyn’s mother wrote Tim a letter relaying just how much this time meant to their family, noting that she hadn’t seen her child smile like that in the longest time; Grifyn’s grandmother wrote a letter as well saying the same thing about her daughter. Tim was struck by this moment; with homes on Martha’s Vineyard, Cape Cod and just shy of Boston – Tim decided to share in his own success. It gives us pause when we are accustomed to a life and when others are given a moment of that life and it changes their world. For Tim, summers on the Vineyard were part of his routine, for the Sawyer’s this gave them moments with their child that they would never forget. He then began to work toward providing this life-changing experience to other families; leading him to the Elm Arch Inn.

The Elm Arch Inn had been part of the Falmouth Village for generations. The owner, Flossie Richardson, was full of life and had a lasting impact on her community. Following her passing, her son Peter was left with finding new owners for her beloved property. He hoped to find someone who would carry on her memory and the meaning of the Inn. He found this and more in Tim. He discounted his mother’s property by over $200,000 – propelling Tim’s goal forward. Tim deemed his project “Tommy’s Place” to honor Tommy Leonard, the founder of the Falmouth Road Race and a friend to Tim who passed away in 2019. Tommy was known for his fun-loving spirit, positive outlook and a heart filled with love and generosity for others. Growing up, Tommy was an orphan and this was Tim’s way to give Tommy an everlasting home that honors his legacy. Tommy’s lifelong generosity will continue to live as he welcomes children and families into his “home”; free of charge for fun and laughter during some of their most challenging times.

“Sometimes, albeit rarely, when something or someone seems too good to be true, it is actually good. And true. Tim O’Connell falls into that category.”
– Troy Clarkson, of the Falmouth Enterprise

The goal of Tommy’s Place is for families to relax, make memories and have fun together. Many families who are enduring a terminal diagnosis or ongoing treatments absorb this world into their homes, Tommy’s Place allows them to take their relationships out of this environment and just be together. As much as Tommy’s place is for the children, it’s for the family as well. Childhood illness and disease takes a toll on each family member in different ways. For every family member the grieving process begins and looks individual. It takes illness, doctors, nurses, plans out of the family dynamic and allows for memory-making, laughter and intimate moments. The house will have enough space for immediate family, extended family and friends or caregivers that create the support system. One of the most important parts of this journey for any family is a support system. The home will include individually designed rooms, a swimming pool, a game room, home theatre, tavern, music room, arts & crafts room and more!

Where does Danny Sheehan fall into the goals of Tommy’s Place? Our local police department has begun helping Danny raise funds for one of the individual rooms to be deemed “Danny’s Room”. Danny’s hope? “I’m so excited for Tommy’s Place to be built. In my room I would want lots of Doritos in it because I love Doritos.” What else can we find in Danny’s room? Race cars. Sharks. French fries. Pizza. Strawberries (because that’s what he dressed up as one year for Halloween). A cubby for Doritos so when we need a midnight snack we can have some Cool Ranch Doritos without even having to leave our room! Rainbows because Danny said he has seen them in person and a music player loaded with a song he loves a lot — “Baby Shark”!

Each room’s unique design will allow for individuals to feel like they’re entering a new world each time they enter a room. Each inspired by whomever it is named after.

Tommy’s Place is a beautiful initiative to it’s core, it is riddled with purity and generosity. Tommy’s Place has reignited the sense of community that we need today. Tommy’s Place has given to the Cape what Danny has brought to Marshfield – a sense of giving, of community, of hope and of love. Individuals all throughout the Cape have been donating things from lumber to kitchen cabinets, shower doors and mirrors, kitchen appliances. The project of renovation to bring Tommy’s Place to life has ignited the desire to give to something larger than ourselves, it’s allowed community to come together to build something beautiful.

You can contribute to Tommy’s Place here!

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