We had the good fortune of connecting with Alanna Bree and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Alanna, how does your business help the community?
A Children’s House for the Soul is a 501c3 nonprofit organization in the Houston area with the mission to empower, encourage, and unite all children and families impacted by skin conditions and birthmarks by providing social, emotional and spiritual support, while also raising awareness through community education initiatives. Don’t let our small size fool you, because we are up to BIG things! It is our vision to make the world a more understanding, accepting and loving place for those affected by skin conditions and birthmarks. It is a lofty goal, but we work tirelessly to achieve it because the need is so great. 20% of children and teens have skin conditions. These kids have higher levels of many psychosocial issues including social withdrawal, lack of confidence, anxiety, depression and even suicide. They experience judgement from a world that is consumed with looks and appearances. The entire family unit deals with stress and loneliness in trying to manage the impacts since their child or sibling is often stared at and ridiculed for their appearance, while their unique needs and challenges are misunderstood. One study compared the health-related quality of life for children with chronic skin conditions to other chronic diseases of childhood including diabetes, epilepsy, asthma, kidney disease and cystic fibrosis. Chronic skin disease was ranked second compared to cerebral palsy in regards to impairment of quality of life. To make a difference, A Children’s House for the Soul works to empower the child and family through facilitated events, activities and discussions, but we also strive to raise awareness and understanding within our community about what skin disease is, and also what it isn’t, through our education program and other initiatives. It is our over-arching goal for each and every child who enters our orange door to walk out with their head held high and shining brightly as the true masterpieces they were made to be. We want them to authentically love the skin they are in and be able to truly see their skin as a beautiful canvas that is a one-of-a-kind treasured work of art. Over the past year, we have been up to some pretty spectacular things in making the world a better place through some amazing projects that have not only been incredibly fun but also life-changing: * I Was Made A Masterpiece Challenge: We believe that YOU were made to stand out! Each person has their own unique and individual beauty. However, because of messages the world sends us about what is attractive and valued, sometimes, those with skin conditions and birthmarks in particular can be made to feel like they stand out in a negative way. At A Children’s House for the Soul, we believe it is our differences that make each of us a beautiful masterpiece. That is why we launched our challenge, and we would love if you would join us: https://achildrenshouse.org/masterpiece/ * Our FRAME Film: We produced a short film featuring many of our nonprofit’s children and families entitled “I Was Made A Masterpiece.” Created by the always gorgeous inside and out Rick Guidotti of Positive Exposure alongside production team Vacant Light, the short film is intended to educate current and future medical professionals, educators, students and ultimately the greater community on the deep emotional impact of skin disease. The film was premiered in Houston with an orange carpet event, and also in NYC at Positive Exposure’s gallery opening. In addition, we worked with Rick to produce a photographic expose of our friends with skin conditions that was featured in The Body as a Work of Art exhibition at The Health Museum. To check out our film, please visit: https://achildrenshouse.org/frame-film/ * Fashion Show and Tell: The impacts of skin disease go far beyond the surface. While the hardships and trials bring challenges, they can also bring opportunity and growth. We wanted a way to bring that message to life at the New York premiere of our film, so we approached a local designer about a collaboration where fashion could be used to empower, enlighten, and educate. With the help and support of our friends and colleagues at Sagis Patient-Focused Diagnostics (which is also another great Houston-based business) we started by taking the microscopic images of three girls’ skin diseases and using them to create the pattern for custom printed fabric. After meeting with each girl and her mom, our hugely talented designer crafted a unique gown from the custom fabric that was inspired by each girl’s personality and approach to life. It was so powerful to have the opportunity to celebrate these beautiful girls and their skin as a work of art, and we were blessed with national recognition on CBS This Morning News that you can see here: https://achildrenshouse.org/dress/ * Love The Skin You’re In School Program: We have developed an educational program to build compassion and create inclusive spaces for students to appreciate their visible differences in and outside of the classroom. Love the Skin You Are In is an enriching experience for all students. It aims to teach students about basic skin hygiene and common dermatologic conditions, as well as increase inclusivity and tolerance of individuals with visible differences, and ultimately, build and actively practice compassion for ourselves and others. We offer in-school educational programming and are currently developing an online curriculum that we hope to launch soon! To learn more or if you would like to invite us to your school, please visit: https://achildrenshouse.org/school-program/ We have so many other exciting programs in the works, so stay tuned to A Children’s House for the Soul, a local nonprofit doing BIG things to make the world a better place! We also hope and pray that YOU are able to see yourself as a masterpiece: An original work of art. Beautiful. Perfect yet authentic. Made with care precision love and a little bit of grit. Measured. Not mistaken. Exactly and perfectly right. Not without flaws and yet flawless.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I grew up with humble Midwest roots where I learned the value of hard work and where the seeds of my faith were planted. That led me to medical school and my calling as a pediatric dermatologist. But then, I heard 4 life-changing words, “Build A Children’s House.” It has been said, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.” That is certainly and thankfully true for me. My life has been far from perfect, but the joys have definitely outweighed the trials. It has been my faith that has carried me through many challenges. I’ve also learned many lessons along the way: Cherish your time on this Earth because time is precious and fleeting. Spend time getting to know others deeply and authentically. Keep an open mind and learn to work with and respect those who are different than you. Try not to judge others since your perspective is always limited. Open your eyes for opportunities to let your light shine. Love the skin you are in. Do things outside of your comfort zone, and realize that your failures are often blessings in disguise because they push you to improve or help you change your path to something even better. Truly live with heart. Realize that each day is a gift. Try to live in the present and remember you can’t change your past or control your future so don’t spend valuable energy trying to do so. Follow your passions and never underestimate the power of a smile or a simple act of kindness. Love with your whole heart. Live to make the world a better place. Living to make the world a better place is the heart of my story and the soul of our brand at A Children’s House for the Soul.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I think Houston is truly one of the best places in the world. It has certainly captured my heart since moving here 14 years ago, and I am always excited to introduce my friends and family to all that H-town has to offer. There is no shortage of things to do, and it is not hard to show them the best time ever while they are here for a visit. A perfect day in Houston for me, of course, would start at 1976 W Dallas Street, the home to A Children’s House for the Soul. It is a bright and cheery brick bungalow originally built in 1936 in the Montrose neighborhood, and walking through the orange door into the warm and welcoming space is sure to set a positive vibe for any day. Our special two-day tour of Houston would begin with breakfast at The Dunlavy under the gorgeous chandeliers and overlooking Lost Lake. We would then meander along the paved hike & bike trail in Buffalo Bayou Park until we came to the Water Works where we would take a tour of the incredible Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern. After grabbing snacks from a local food truck vendor often lining the street there, we would continue our journey into downtown Houston. With a full day of walking, we would surely be hungry again so we would have a yummy lunch at Phoenicia Specialty Foods and MKT Bar that reflects the eclectic and multicultural nature of Houston. We would then spend the afternoon enjoying the green space and varied art installations in Discovery Green and along Avendia Houston. We would stop by Launch HTX and shop for a special hand-crafted item designed by one of the many talented local artisans in this pop-up boutique shop. After checking into the Marriott Marquis, we would go for a swim in the one-of-a-kind Texas shaped pool. That evening we would head out to Minute Maid Park dressed in our blue and orange (also the colors of A Children’s House for the Soul!) to cheer on our home team Astros with our friends, Bill and Dianne Brown, who were the chairs of our recent capital campaign to Bring A Children’s House HOME (https://achildrenshouse.org/capital-campaign). After the game, we would head over to The Grove and sit out on the patio to savor their delicious guacamole and queso along with one of my favorite cocktails in the city, the ginger margarita. After a perfect day and a good night of sleep (I’m definitely not an early bird!), we would begin another fun-filled day in Hermann Park. We would start with breakfast at Barnaby’s Cafe nearby. After spending time at The Museum of Fine Arts, the Cockrell Butterfly Center at the Houston Museum Of Natural Science, and a walk through the McGovern Centennial Gardens, we would have lunch at Bodegas Taco Shop. In my opinion, they have the best chicken tortilla soup, and I am in love with their mango habanero and cilantro serrano salsas. We would then check into Hotel Zaza and enjoy the afternoon with some pampering in the spa followed by some poolside cocktails (of course, with our sunscreen on since I am a dermatologist!). Before heading out for the night, we would eat a delicious meal to include another one of my favorites, the calamari salad, at Monarch Restaurant & Lounge overlooking the Mecom Fountain. We would then spend the evening in Hermann Park walking along the Gibbs and Jesse H. Jones Reflection Pool and catching a performance on the hillside of Miller Outdoor Theater. If we were lucky, the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra (ROCO), another of my local favorites, would be the featured performers. It would be the perfect ending to another perfect day.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I am forever indebted to the kiddos and families we serve because they are the true soul of A Children’s House for the Soul. They are each a special part of my heart, and my life is richer because they are in it. The staff of A Children’s House is beyond amazing and each team member deserves a huge shout-out! Lindsay, Amber, Kimberly, Blaire, and V are the heart of our organization and they live out our mission in all they do! They are each wildly gifted and talented, and I can’t think of a more wonderful group of passionate women to work with to help bring our vision to life. Our Board of Directors is also an incredible blessing to our organization and is made up of many wonderful people who are dedicated to making the world a better place through their involvement and support of A Children’s House for the Soul. Most importantly, I must give the most magnificent shout-out to God, our Creator and Savior, who made each one of us a perfect masterpiece and who deserves all the glory. I am thankful he has trusted me with building A Children’s House, and I pray I can reflect His light and overflow His love to all who come through our orange door.
Nikky LaWell Lee Beckmann Kimberly Oehrlein Rick Guidotti