Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing you to Jessica Craycraft. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation, we’ve shared it below.
Jessica, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. We’re complete cheeseballs and so we love asking folks to share the most heartwarming moment from their career – do you have a touching moment you can share with us?
One of my favorite things about Operation Bliss is how so many people want to help provide memorable experiences for our families. I’ve watched hotel staff members line the street to welcome an arriving guest with claps and cheers. I’ve had a hotel concierge ask to purchase additional gifts out of her own pocket for the child staying at the hotel because she felt so touched by the patient’s story. I’ve seen a hotel chef go out of his way to customize a special dessert before the child departed the hotel because the child’s strength and grit drew the chef to tears. These are strangers extending love to strangers and it is so uplifting to witness.
These gestures of kindness – no matter how big or small – are what we believe in.
We, at Operation Bliss, handle the details because these families don’t need one more thing to worry about. Their schedules are filled with hospital appointments, daily treatments, and constant follow-up aiming to heal their child. We have the privilege of providing a memorable experience that is far from a hospital setting. That is our gift of love!
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers
I worked in hotels for over 18 years and loved being part of an industry that allowed me to serve others daily. When my daughter, Kennedy Bliss was six-weeks old, she became ill which led to an overnight stay at a hospital. That one night turned into several days. We were the fortunate parents who returned home with a healthy girl. However, the exhausting and fearful experience produced an empathy in me for other families who have a much longer journey ahead. I was determined to find a way to use my hotel career knowledge to serve families with children undergoing medical treatments. I wanted to create an experience that allowed these families to find a night filled with some relaxation and smiles during their medical journey. Kids love hotels and the adventures they bring. Parents love hotels and the services they provide. Hotels generate magical moments that leave lasting memories. I formed this organization with the desire to support families and provide them with much needed bliss! Some stays are celebrating a child’s last chemo treatment and the new road to recovery. And some stays are celebrating a child’s life, and this may be one of the last memories the family has with all family members present. Whatever the reason may be, we are focused on providing a stay for families to connect and find joy in the midst of their trials.
We provide a one-night hotel stay, a local experience, custom gifts for the patient and their accompanying siblings, and a food credit at the hotel for the entire family. We are an organization that provides all our services behind the scenes. Our goal is to do everything possible to make sure the family can show up and feel like royalty for a night. I am most proud of the big hearts involved. Operation Bliss is here to love well, and I’m honored to be surrounded by others who desire to support these families as much as I do!
Let’s talk about resilience next – do you have a story you can share with us?
We hosted our first stay in 2019, and the pandemic happened within a year. Our primary system revolves around the medical and hotel industries, and these two industries were hit harder than most. Hotels closed and medical procedures halted. As discouraging as it could have been, we chose to get creative and focus on providing care for families in a different way: we sent a gift package to the family and extended a rain check for the hotel stay to be used when life settled down.
I didn’t want to put our offerings on hold during an unsure time because the families we serve didn’t have the option to postpone their kids’ medical situations. In fact, many of our families were already well privy to what living a life in a pandemic looked like. They are trained to be critically mindful about germs – adhering to social distancing practices to protect their children’s immune systems and being separated from family members to keep their children as healthy as possible. The pandemic’s effects that we were experiencing for the first time was the reality most of our Operation Bliss families lived daily. Being reminded of this during the pandemic encouraged me to remain hopeful and move forward in an even more determined way. I developed an even greater admiration for our families, and I was motivated to keep the faith and love on these families as BIG as I could!
If you could go back in time, do you think you would have chosen a different profession or specialty?
No way! My career in hotels is a big piece of what led me to starting Operation Bliss. I once said, working for hotels is what I get paid for but serving Operation Bliss families is what I was made for. While I am no longer in the hotel industry, I developed a passion for them that will last my lifetime. I didn’t start this organization for a salary. In fact, we are still 100% volunteer based and no salaries are paid. All the funds we raise go back to these families to make their experiences even more grand! This is my labor of love and one of my main purposes in life.