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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
Community

Rotary donates to ‘Bright Beginnings’

The Sandston Rotary Club recently donated $1,000 to the Sandston YMCA for its Bright Beginnings program, which helps provide children in need with school supplies for the new school year. > Read more.

Author, child abuse survivor to speak at Henrico event

To help celebrate twenty years of service to advocating for abused and neglected children in Henrico County, Henrico Court Appointed Special Advocates, Inc. (CASA) will host an evening with bestselling author K.L. Randis on Tuesday, Aug. 26, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Belmont Recreation Center in Lakeside.

Randis is best known for her bestselling novel, Spilled Milk, which tells her painful – but ultimately triumphant – personal story of abuse and of child abuse prevention. The book is her first novel.

The event is free to the public, but seating is limited Reservations may be made by e-mailing .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Belmon Recreation Center is located at 1600 Hilliard Road. > Read more.

Philippines ambassador to the US visits Filipino Festival in Henrico


The Ambassador of the Philippines to the United States Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. attended the Ninth Annual Filipino Festival at Our Lady of Lourdes Church earlier this month. Cuisia (pictured above with festival performers) was welcomed by County Manager John Vithoulkas and Brookland District Supervisor Dick Glover (below) at the church, which is located in Lakeside.

While enjoying some of the cultural performances at the festival, the ambassador and his wife had a private lunch with Vithoulkas, Glover, Eldon Burton (an outreach representative from U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner’s Office) and Father James Begley, the pastor of OLL. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Bottoms up

Short Pump brewery offers more than just beer
I am still (happily) thinking about my entire experience at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery last week. Knowing nothing about this new brewery out of Denver, I was leery of brew-pub in the heart of Short Pump Town Center – this is not what I’d usually think of as a perfect fit, and yet, it was.

The restaurant and craft brewery opened in early June and features 10 beers made by female brewmaster Becky Hammond (pictured). This is the restaurant’s second location in Virginia; the first is in Arlington. Behind glass walls, customers watched the beer brewing in massive steel barrels. For our up-and-coming beer region, it makes sense that Short Pump would jump on board.

As I walked up to the back of the mall near the comedy club, I was taken aback by what I saw: at the top of the stairs was an overflowing restaurant with outdoor seating, large umbrellas and dangling outdoor lights. > Read more.

Cultural Arts Center announces 2014 fall class schedule

The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen is now registering participants for its fall 2014 schedule of classes.

The center will offer more than 100 classes for children and adults, covering topicssuch as culinary arts, fiber arts, visual and performance arts and more. Instruction is structured to appeal to a wide range of abilities, from beginners to experts of all ages. Class sizes are kept small to ensure maximum benefit for participants with generally no more than 15 students. > 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.

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