On March 16, 2012 I kicked off Giggle On’s first Laughter Drive with an event called Sponsor a Case of Laffy’s in honor of the late Rachel Gambrill.
Since the Laughter Drive’s inception last year, we have donated hundreds of laughter toys, marshmallow launchers and kazoos.
Please visit Helping Kids Giggle On for updated information.
On February 9, 2012, I met 9 year old Rachel at AI duPont Hospital for Children. I first learned about her on Twitter and through her Rainbows for Rachel Facebook page. I read the story about her battle with brain cancer and her terminal diagnosis.
A few weeks prior to meeting Rachel I spoke with Beth Carlough, Child Life Program Coordinator, regarding the case of Laffy’s donated in December.
Beth reported Laffy Laffalot was helping patients as they were preparing for (and receiving) treatment.
Based on Beth’s positive feedback, I decided to contact Rachel’s mom (Karen Pierce) to ask permission to deliver a Laffy to Rachel for her private use. I was prepared to be directed to the Bone Marrow Unit. I expected to be told to drop Laffy at the nurse’s station. To my surprise, Karen invited me to stop by Rachel’s room and deliver the Laffy Laffalot to her personally!
Do Not Cry!
I arrived at AI duPont that day prepared to see a sick little girl in a hospital bed. I never met a child with cancer before and wasn’t sure what to expect or how I would handle it. I worried I would break down and cry. Who needs a stranger crying & snotting all over their kid? Answer: Nobody. I have seen some horrendous things in my life. Was I prepared for this? How does anyone really prepare for this anyway?
I asked God to give me strength and help me focus on delivering smiles and laughter. Smiles and laughter. Smiles and laughter. That’s all I needed to do. Smiles and laughter.
I never made it to Rachel’s room. I actually met her in the elevator. Karen invited me to join them as they headed down to the playroom to enjoy a performance by visiting circus clowns (and God Bless those two guys. For 25 minutes they helped these children escape into a land of playfulness. It was a beautiful thing to witness.
So here’s Rachel, a little girl in a wheelchair with her head partially shaved, a feather adorning the remaining patch of hair, an enormous Frankenstein sized scar on her skull and a very nasty looking tumor. Despite all that, Rachel had a smile on her face. Her eyes twinkled with anticipation. I just imagine she was pretty excited to get out of her room and have some fun.
Rachel Meets Laffy Lafflot
Once we reached the playroom, I pulled out my personal Laffy to show Rachel and her mom how it worked. She immediately began to smile and giggle.
I do not think I have ever seen a more beautiful and genuine smile in my entire life. I will cherish the memory all of my days. Thank you Karen for giving me the opportunity to meet Rachel in person. Meeting her changed my life!
When I met Rachel at AI, I knew Laffy wasn’t going to save her. I arrived at the hospital with the hope Laffy would bring a little light and laughter to her on a difficult and painful journey.
A few days after meeting Rachel, Karen Pierce, Rachel’s mom emailed me to say:
“Laughter, even at a time like this, is wonderful medicine. Thank you.”
Laughter brings us hope. It helps us transcend pain. Laughter helps our spirits heal and dance with joy even when our bodies are dying.
Going Big or Going Home
A few weeks ago I attended a prayer vigil at Rachel’s house. After the vigil ended I was invited inside the home by one of the organizers who is also a very dear and loving friend, Dee Cairo.
I was reluctant to enter the home. I did not want to intrude on the family’s private time. When I walked inside Karen smiled brightly at me. Without speaking a word she pointed to the coffee table next to the couch where Rachel was resting. She wanted to show me that Laffy Laffalot was right by Rachel’s side. My heart melted. A lump formed in my throat. I used all my former-chef-hard-as-nails-strength to hold back my tears. At that moment I made a vow to do everything I could do help more children laugh and smile during difficult times. I said to myself “Go BIG Christa or GO HOME“!
Fly Rachel Fly
Those of you reading this note probably already know Rachel passed away a few days ago. Rachel’s body lost its battle with brain cancer but Rachel’s Don’t Give Up, Giggle On spirit is alive in everyone who was touched by her life. I am heart broken to see this child die but relieved to know she is no longer in physical pain. I wish Rachel God speed. I pray for Karen during this time of mourning, remembrance and rebirth. I pray for every parent who has lost a child to cancer.
A celebration of Rachel’s life is scheduled for Monday, March 19th at 11:00 am at Red Clay Creek Presbyterian Church, 500 McKennans Church Road, Wilmington, DE.
How can you help?
If you would like to help me raise money for selected area non-profits and children in need of a little laughter, please contact me at email@example.com or by phone at (302) 593-3913. I can can help you coordinate making a Laffy Laffalot donation to children in need.
It is my hope and intention to raise funding to keep bringing smiles, giggles and joy to people of all ages, all races and all backgrounds. I want to help serve a big heaping plate of laughter to everyone.
Thank you to donors Becky McLeod & Katie O’Dell for your contributions. Your generosity will bring smiles to many children. Namaste with giggles.
With gratitude from all corners of my heart I say: Thank you, thank you, thank you for helping with this very important mission!!!!!!
Peace. Love. Giggle On!