The mission of Bryan's House is to respond to the needs of children and their families by providing medically managed child care, respite care, and community-based, family-centered support services.
Bryan Allen was merely a few months old when his mother, Lydia, found out that the blood she received from a transfusion during the delivery of her older son, Matthew, was tainted with a virus. A blood bank called to inform her that the donor that she received blood from during Matthew’s birth in 1982 had just died of AIDS. They urged Lydia and her family to be tested for the disease. Lydia, Matthew and Bryan all tested positive for AIDS. In 1985, at 8 months old, Bryan became one of the first children in the Dallas area to die from AIDS.
In 1987, during a time when little was understood about HIV/AIDS and those who were infected, Lydia Allen and Stefanie Held responded to the social and medical crisis surrounding the devastating disease. Lydia, a psychiatric nurse, and Stefanie, the Director of Pastoral Care at Temple Emanu-El, recognized a need for the care of children and families impacted by HIV/AIDS. With the support of friends and family, they began their efforts by providing hospice care for babies dying of AIDS out of their own homes and offering a support group for women affected by AIDS. In 1988, they established an organization called Open Arms, Inc. With the help of community volunteers, they leased an old two-story building in the Oak Lawn neighborhood of Dallas, renovated it, and named the facility “Bryan’s House” after Lydia’s son. On November 20, 1988, Bryan’s House opened its doors as a safe haven for children and families affected by HIV and AIDS.
As medical advances are improving, fewer children are becoming infected with HIV and AIDS. Thankfully, many are now living longer and healthier lives. In 2006, we recognized another unmet need in the community concerning children with other serious medical problems. We then expanded our field of care to include children with special health needs and their families. The medically managed child care model is still unique today, and as more children survive illnesses and injuries that were once fatal, the need for a safe place for these children is just as great as it was for Bryan Allen and the other children who suffered from AIDS.
Our original home had a capacity for nine children. Since then, we have expanded our facility three times by enlarging the original Oak Lawn house in 1990, moving to a brand new facility in the Southwest Medical Center area in 2000, and our most recent move and opening of two separate Dallas locations in March 2012. Today we are able to serve over 1,100 unduplicated family members and over 350 children in child care annually.
Lydia, Matthew, and Bryan Allen have since succumbed to the AIDS virus, but we continue to honor their legacy by providing care and support for families in our community in need of a helping hand.