Covenant House Alumna Reflects on a Special Christmas Memory

Christmas memory

April was just 12 years old the first time she dropped in at Covenant House, fleeing an abusive household. She came multiple times, especially after her son was born when she was 15. “With the challenges and hopelessness I felt that year, I don’t know if I would have made it through alive if it wasn’t for that stability and unconditional love Covenant House provided,” she said. “I truly felt they believed I could do great things, when I couldn’t see it yet.”

Today, Dr. April Hunziker, MD, is a physician specializing in psychiatry and a member of the board of directors at Covenant House International.

Recently, as a presenter at a virtual Sleep Out, April shared her story of perseverance through a series of photos in a scrapbook. She said, “The first time I went to Covenant House it was shortly before Christmas. The photo here was taken at the Covenant House outreach center in Anchorage. I know there was a tree and talk about Christmas for us kids, but honestly I didn’t expect there to be anything for us on Christmas day. I remember waking up and seeing presents and being shocked. There were a lot of us and everyone had something. So many people we didn’t know came together and made that happen.”

April went on to share, “I still remember the welcome I got when I first arrived at Covenant House. There was a kind person who let me sit down and asked me what I needed and assured me I was safe.  I remember they didn’t question me about why I didn’t have a home;  they did not assume that I must have done something wrong or must have been a bad kid to end up at Covenant House, which meant so much to me. They took me to my room, which had a comfortable bed and was clean, and I was able to put my things in my own closet. I was shocked I had a closet! The original Covenant House Alaska was across from the Anchorage Performing Arts Center and it was lit up for Christmas every year. I can remember seeing it from my room and remember watching families walking in and out of the shows.”

At the time, the laws in Alaska were set up in a way that youth could only stay at Covenant House for 45 days at a time, which means they had to leave for 30 days and come back a month later. April was in and out a lot. She said, “Every time I came back, Covenant House would try to put me in the same room. It sounds like a small thing, but it was really a special thing to do. Before I was homeless, I was in a gifted arts class and as part of that, I got to go to all the dress rehearsals at the shows at that performing arts center. My ability to be in classes like that, really my ability to be a kid, stopped when I became homeless. But seeing the lights outside my window every year at Covenant House kept that going for a little while longer. And knowing that I would get to go to my room meant a lot to me.”

Many thanks to our community of supporters who come together to provide love and light to young people like April during the holiday season. Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

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