Henrico County VA

Help from a ‘Fairy Godmother’

Pediatric cancer patients, families receive assistance from new program
Andie McConnell of Stafford, Va., watched as 22-month-old Evy, a friend’s daughter, was diagnosed with pediatric brain cancer in 2009.

McConnell was driven to help the family and started fundraising projects.The result was the Fairy Godmother Project, a movement that began as a way to provide comfort and assistance to families struggling with the difficulties that occur when raising a child with cancer.

The project recently added a chapter to Richmond and has helped bring relief to families in the area that are consumed by the disease and its treatment.

Amazed at the outpouring of support and the success of her actions, McConnell linked with professional photographer Stephanie Johnson and worked on moving forward with her efforts. Evy’s mother dubbed Andie her daughter’s “fairy godmother,” igniting the creation of the Fairy Godmother Project.

Lauren Leporati, coordinator for the Richmond Chapter, stumbled upon the Fairy Godmother Project online and felt driven to get involved. After contacting McConnell and expressing her desire to assist families in the Richmond area, Leporati started a chapter in the area, which began in January.

“I know a lot of people have a personal connection to cancer and that’s why they start but I just really wanted to help,” said Leporati. “When I was reading about these families of children with cancer I thought of my own two children and couldn’t imagine what it would be like to go through that and the heartache of it all. I wanted to do something to help other people.”

One of the biggest struggles when taking care of a child with cancer is having the time or energy to do everyday tasks and having time to relax.

The project aims to help ease the pressures off families by providing meals, housecleaning services, lawn care and date nights, while providing optimum care for the child. In addition, the program provides monthly Visa gift cards to families that they can use to buy groceries, gas and other necessities.

About 10 volunteers are actively serving three separate families throughout the area.

When a family receives assistance, it is paired with a lead volunteer who helps from the beginning of the child’s diagnosis until a month after his or her treatment ends, providing consistency and allowing for the family to become comfortable and build a relationship with the volunteer.

Leporati and the lead volunteers are focused on providing optimum assistance, and they meet with the families in the beginning to discuss their needs and struggles.

Shannon Hubbel, a Chesterfield resident, has received assistance from the FGP for the past four months after McConnell stumbled upon Hubbel’s blog about her five-year-old daughter Emily’s journey with neuroblastoma, a cancer that occurs in infants and children.

“The Fairy Godmother Project found us,” said Hubbel. “I was very grateful for the help and every little bit they could do was great. They offered to do meals for us and some weeks were at the hospital every day so coming home to a hot meal was amazing and I am so appreciative. It makes life not as stressful and my nights not as long.”

The FGP is a non-profit organization and receives funding through events, individual contributions, spirit nights at restaurants and fundraisers. Although the project helps with everyday tasks, it also seems to complete the circle of support to navigate families through their child’s diagnosis and ease the process.

“Lauren will send me texts telling me she’s thinking about us,” says Hubbel. “Knowing that they are not just there to help but they care is amazing. I can’t give them enough kudos and the people there have huge hearts and I appreciate everything they do for us.”

In addition to the at-home services the FGP provides, it also teams with professional photographers who volunteer their time and expertise to photograph the families to capture precious moments.

FGP hopes that these services can provide comfort to families facing the most difficult of times. Many people want to help but aren’t sure what to do, and the FGP can direct people to assist those in need throughout the community.

By easing the burden of everyday life for local families who have a child in treatment for a form of pediatric cancer, it can take away some of the stress and provide relief. The FGP is looking for volunteers so it can serve as many potential families as possible.

“If its something simple and easy that somebody could do to take that burden off of a family, why not do it?” said Leporati. “I think it’s important and sometimes I feel like if we didn’t help each other out who would. A lot of it is just simple basic things that anybody can do but its completely overwhelming for these families.”

To contact the Fairy Godmother Project or learn more, visit http://www.fairygodmotherproject.org To re.ad Emily Hubbel’s blog visit http://www.emilyhubbel.com
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Community

MADD to host candlelight vigil Dec. 2 at UR

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) will host a candlelight vigil of remembrance and hope Tuesday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. at the University of Richmond, outside the Cannon Chapel. The public is invited to attend and join MADD to honor victims of impaired driving crashes, while helping to remind the community to be safe during the holidays. > Read more.

Tournament supports adoption efforts

Among participants at the Seventh Annual Coordinators2Inc Golf Tournament and awards luncheon Oct. 3 were (from left) Rebecca Ricardo, C2 Inc executive director; Kevin Derr, member of the winning foursome; Sharon Richardson, C2 Inc founder; and Frank Ridgway and Jon King, members of the winning foursome.

Held at The Crossings Golf Club, the tournament will benefit placement of children from Virginia's foster care system into permanent families through Coordinators2. > Read more.

A.C. Moore to host winter craft day for kids

Event will help kick of Marine Corps' 'Toys for Tots' campaign
All 140 A.C. Moore locations will serve as drop-off centers this year for the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, and all toys collected will stay in the local communities served by the stores in which they are donated.

On Saturday, Nov. 15, the Willow Lawn location will kick off the month-long program by hosting a "Make & Take" craft event for kids. Children ages six and older will be able to make a craft and take it home with them. Representatives from the Marines will be in-store to teach customers about the Toys for Tots program. A.C. Moore team members will be on site to help with the crafts. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Authentically Italian

Bella’s feels – and tastes – like Italy should
Short Pump is known for its share of chain restaurants and strip malls, but diners looking for something more distinct can certainly find it without heading downtown or to nearby Charlottesville.

In fact, local husband-and-wife restaurateurs Valeria Bisenti and Doug Muir brought a taste of Charlottesville (and Italy) to Short Pump when they took a chance and opened Bella’s second location in the same shopping strip as Wal-Mart and Peter Chang China Cafe. (Bella’s original location is on Main Street in downtown Charlottesville.)

For a local Italian restaurant, Bella’s is as “Mom and Pop” as its gets. Valeria is Mom, and Doug is Pop. Since its opening about six months ago, diners have been eating rich comfort foods and drinking Italian wines. > Read more.

Restaurant watch

Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.

‘Sizing Up!’ opens at Cultural Arts Center

The Cultural Arts Center unveils a new exhibit – "Sizing Up!" – Nov. 20-Jan. 18 in the Gumenick Family Gallery.

Artist Chuck Larivey has spent the past three years "sizing up" – creating large-scale oil paintings that are designed to engage their viewers in a monumental way by using size to captivate them and make them a part of the artistic experience.

The exhibit is appropriate for all ages and is free and open to the public at the center, located at 2880 Mountain Road in Glen Allen. > Read more.

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CharacterWorks, Inc., an after-school youth theater program, will present “Shrek The Musical” Nov. 21-23 and Nov. 28-30 at the Robins Theatre at Steward School, 11600 Gayton Rd. “Shrek The Musical”… Full text

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