Family Dinner Program

The Children’s Inn at NIH is a caring place to be – a place to relax with other families that are undergoing serious medical treatment.  After long travels, families are often tired and ready for a home-cooked meal. The Inn invites different groups and organizations to provide a large meal for all of the families. These “family dinners” allow the families to relax, while alleviating the worries of transportation, grocery shopping and the hassle of preparing a meal after a long day of traveling. This is also an opportunity for them to meet, mingle and interact with other families, creating an environment of mutual support and caring.

The group or organization that provides a Family Dinner may either drop off the meal or stay to serve the families. While we are at our busiest on Sundays, providing a Family Dinner on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday is also an option. See available dates on our Family Dinner Calendar

Family Dinner Guidelines

  • Family Dinners are served from 6:00pm to 7:00pm.
  • Meals must be large enough to feed 50–60 residents in the fall/winter months, and up to 80 in the spring/summer months—estimates will base on our reservations available closer to the date you are serving.
  • We ask that you provide a list of ingredients and that dishes are clearly labeled. Please include prep instructions if food is being dropped off.
  • If cooking, please refer to “The Children’s Inn Food Handling Procedures” for the safety of our often immune-suppressed patient residents.
  • Please bring paper/plastic plates, cups, napkins, and utensils. Festive seasonal or holiday themed paper goods are encouraged (but not required) as a way to brighten up the meal and atmosphere for families.
  • Meals should include four (4) courses plus beverages. (Visit our Pinterest board for meal suggestions)
  1. Salad
  2. Main course

(and a vegetarian option to feed 7–10 people for residents with a non-meat diet)

  1. Sides
  2. Dessert
  3. Beverages

(including two (2) gallons of milk)

  • No more than 12 volunteers may stay and serve the meal to families at The Inn.
  • All volunteers must be 16 years of age or older.
  • Maximum of four (4) adolescents ages of 16 or 17.
  • Volunteers must be in good health and wear plastic gloves while serving. Anyone with a cold, flu-like symptom or any other contagious symptoms, and anyone who has been exposes to chickenpox, measles, or shingles in the past three (3) weeks may not come to The Inn.
  • Candles, Sterno, and open flame heaters are not permitted at The Inn. If needed, ovens are available for your use to heat up food.
  • Groups are not authorized to film or take pictures of our children and families. Pictures of the physical building without our families ate permitted. All media inquiries must be pre-approved in advance through our Communications Manager Sonja Luecke, [email protected].
  • Families may want to talk. This is fine as long as it is the residents who initiate the conversation. We encourage you to listen with an open heart. Anything they share with you is strictly confidential. Most importantly, please refrain from offering any advice.

Additional Information

  • The attendance and ages of children at a dinner varies. We cannot guarantee a large attendance or pressure children and families to attend dinners. Due to the medical conditions of our children, some may not feel up to participating.
  • From time to time, The Inn may interview, photograph, and/or record our volunteers as part of our efforts to raise awareness about The Inn. By volunteering at The Inn, you grant The Inn the right to photograph and record your image, voice and likeness, and all information provided by you (collectively, “Works”), and to permanently retain, modify, and/or use, in whole or in part, all such Works. The Inn may modify, use, publish, and/or display the Works in any manner or form it deems appropriate, and in any and all media now known or hereafter developed, including but not limited to the use in newsletters, magazines, websites, television, radio, presentations, and advertising. We will not provide notice of, and you will not be able to inspect or prove of, uses of the Works, and you will receive no monetary compensation for any use of the Works. The Inn will own all worldwide intellectual property rights in and to the Works. If you do not agree to these terms, please inform The Inn in writing prior to or at the time of your visit.


If you would like to provide a Family Dinner for The Children’s Inn, please contact Kelleh Jian at [email protected] or 301-451-3717.