week, Hatteras Island had the privilege of being the host for a very
special group of visitors who came to the beach for a much-needed and
visitors were breast cancer patients and their families, and their
island vacation was part of the Little Pink Houses of Hope’s annual
in case you’ve never heard of the organization, Little Pink Houses of
Hope is a non-profit based in Burlington, NC with an underlying mission
to promote breast cancer recovery by celebrating life in some of the
country’s most beautiful destinations.
while Hatteras Island certainly qualifies as a beautiful destination to
be sure, as it turns out, the island was also the inspiration for
Little Pink Houses of Hope to begin with.
June 15, 2009, founder Jeanine Patten-Coble was diagnosed with breast
cancer a day before her family was scheduled to go on vacation in
asked her doctor if she could still go, and he responded with a
resounding yes, as well as a warning that “you better go and enjoy
yourself, because when you get back, you are ours for the next year.”
she went, knowing that at some point during the vacation, she would
have to tell her 12-year-old son the news of her diagnosis. Early on in
her stay, she went on a run just to clear her head, and after turning
on Old Lighthouse Road, she came across a familiar sight to locals and
longtime Buxton visitors – the Old Coast Guard Housing complex.
thought [of those houses] kept running through my head,” says Jeanine
on the organization’s website. “’I could paint them pink…Little Pink
Houses…I could create a cancer retreat center… families could come to
get away from the daily life of cancer…I am supposed to do something
amazing with this… [wait], you just found out you have cancer…what are
she got the 411 on the houses that week, and while she clearly had
other important matters on her mind, the thought of the future “Little
Pink Houses” persisted throughout her vacation.
week long, these houses kept calling to me, in a way that I cannot
explain,” she says on the site. “Sometimes you do not know what you are
supposed to do until you trip across your destiny. In my case, I feel
like I ran right into it on a warm summer day in my running shoes.”
impromptu encounter with the abandoned housing complex eventually led
to the formation of the Little Pink Houses of Hope, and sure enough,
Hatteras Island became the one of the first retreat locations for
families who were going through similar circumstances.
wanted to provide a place where you could relax and get away from
cancer for a while with people who are just like you,” says Program
Relations Director Kathy Gates. “After she finished her treatment, she
got everything in order, and Little Pink Houses of Hope started the
very next year.”
The retreats are much more than just a quiet island getaway, too – (although that’s certainly a big part of the experience.)
VIP guests get to enjoy a world of activities that the Outer Banks has
to offer, courtesy of generous donations and hardworking volunteers who
want to make the vacation as wonderfully memorable as possible.
this most recent retreat - which fittingly began on Mother’s Day - the
families were treated to a “Beach Day” with fire dancing and bonfire
courtesy of Koru Village, a Hatteras Village Day with golf carts,
kayaks and bikes
from A.S. Austin Co, a Pirate Cruise complete with an epic water battle
from Cap N Clam & Miss Hatteras, and a wealth of other activities
that are almost too numerous to list.
of the churches along the island supply us with wonderful meals, and
many of the restaurants help us create an ‘Adult Night Out’ on
Wednesdays - We take care of the kids, and the adults go out to dinner
just so they can have an evening together,” says Kathy. “There are also
many restaurants that donate so families can go out to lunch on Friday.
[And on] Wednesday morning, we went to Canadian Hole and all the
mothers got to go stand-up paddle boarding thanks to Ocean Cure from
of the families stay in vacation homes that are generously donated.
“Hatteras Realty has very graciously located properties and homeowners
that will provide homes for our families, and they take care of this
every year... so a big shout out to them,” says Kathy.
once the families have arrived, activities and assistance throughout
their stay are orchestrated by a group of volunteers who also arrive on
the island from all across the country to help. “This year, we had 12
volunteers to help take care of the families,” says Kathy. “And what
makes it the ‘Little Pink’ experience is the volunteers who pay their
own funds and use their own vacation time to come and be ‘ridiculously
present’ in loving these families.”
families] don’t have to do any of the activities during the week,” she
adds, “but once we get started, because of the love and fun our
volunteers provide, they always join in. They don’t want to miss out on
anything! And that’s a great testimony to the people who come to
volunteer - Several are breast cancer survivors themselves, so they see
the value of this retreat.”
its initial launch just seven years ago, Little Pink Houses of Hope has
grown in size, and in the number of lives they are able to touch.
year, the Spring Retreat welcomed 11 families and a total of 52 people.
The families came from all over the country – from Massachusetts to
Iowa to Nebraska – and though no one had been
to the island before, it didn’t take long for the folks to become Outer
Banks fans. “There was not one family from North Carolina, but you
better believe that there are now families who want to come back,” says
And that’s just for this single event on Hatteras Island.
Pink Houses of Hope has also spread to cool destinations all over the
country, including Florida, the Virgin Islands, Scottsdale, Lake Tahoe,
Ocean City, and Orange Beach, Alabama.
But there’s still a soft spot at the heart of the organization for Hatteras Island.
where Little Pink Houses began, after all, and local businesses and
volunteers have been instrumental in making the vacation experience a
true getaway for breast cancer patients and their families.
could not do what we do without the gracious generosity of the Hatteras
Island residents,” says Kathy. “It is amazing and heartwarming to see
how much Hatteras Island cares about these families.”
generosity of small communities with big hearts is just mind boggling -
Especially knowing that Hatteras Island suffered so much last fall, and
yet they still poured generosity into our families and our retreat.”
“We are honored and humbled to be beneficiaries of such love and service.”
How You Can Help
Pink Houses of Hope hosts two retreats on Hatteras Island – a spring
retreat designed for families, and a fall retreat for couples.
organization can always use all the “beach necessities” for vacationing
families – from paper products, to cleaning kits, to beach towels and
water bottles - as well as gift cards for local restaurants and grocery
stores. (Non-necessities – like little gifts, jewelry, or just a card
are always welcome as well.)
To find out more about the organization and how to help, visit https://www.littlepink.org/ or email the local Hatteras Island coordinator [email protected].