Danielle and her husband Jimmy Mason were busy working and raising their three young boys in Florida when the unthinkable happened. “We were having a normal evening when our infant son, Julian, who was 10 months old at the time, suddenly became unconscious. As a nurse, I suspected that he may have had a seizure, but my mother’s instinct told me something was very wrong, so we called 911. Immediately our lives were turned completely upside down.” In the ER, they were told devastating news; Julian was suffering a brain bleed (or stroke), due to an aneurysm in his brain which had been undetectable until then. Little Julian was placed on life support and life flighted to a local children’s hospital, and the Mason family suddenly faced a very uncertain future. “We didn’t know if he would ever wake up again, or if he would be the same baby he was before the stroke. It was a very terrifying and uncertain time, waiting at his bedside.”
Miraculously, Julian woke up, and recovered. He struggled with weakness and paralysis on half of his body, and lost his speech capability, but he was determined to keep up with his two older brothers. Danielle had to take a leave from her job at the hospital as a nurse dedicating her time to helping Julian recover. “The stress of now having a medically fragile child was consuming. Endless doctor’s appointments, therapies, and tests, I assumed the role of Julian’s advocate, navigating the healthcare system for my child with little to no support.”
The stress affected the entire family, until one day, Danielle read about The Still Place on Facebook. She applied for a retreat immediately but wasn’t hopeful they would be selected. “Then, Dr. Dawn called me, and soon after, we were on our way to Hayesville.”
Arriving at The Still Place, the Mason family was unsure of what to expect. “We were welcomed and loved immediately. It was a life changing week of rest and healing that allowed us to reconnect as a family, away from the daily stress of life.” Dr. Dawn Grinenko and Dr. Craig Kitchens, Co-Founders of The Still Place provided a safe, loving environment where children and families are celebrated, and hope is alive. Says Mason, “The Still Place gave us the gift of hope, hope that we as a family would be OK, no matter what we had been through.”
The Masons returned to Florida but were gifted a second retreat at The Still Place a year later, now with the addition of their fourth son. It was then they made the decision to relocate permanently. In 2021, the Mason Family packed up and moved to Hiawassee, with the intention of volunteering at The Still Place. Danielle accepted a role at Regency Hospice in Hiawassee as Executive Director and dove right into serving the local community, carrying with her the message of hope in difficult family situations.