When sick or injured children and teens are hospitalized, it can be a scary and stressful experience for their entire family. The child life team at CHOC strives to normalize the hospital experience so patients can focus on what’s most important: feeling better. The Cherese Mari Laulhere Foundation has made a generous $5 million gift to support the work of trained child life specialists who provide specialized programs such as education, music therapy, art therapy, pet therapy and even yoga. The Cherese Mari Laulhere Child Life Department at CHOC will continue to integrate therapeutic services and specialized programs into care delivered at CHOC.
Larry and Chris Laulhere, longtime residents of Long Beach, lost their daughter Cherese in 1996. She was attending UCLA when she joined the Semester at Sea abroad program in her junior year. She planned to spend 100 days traveling the world, balancing full-time study with field trips that supported her education endeavors. Sadly Cherese’s life was tragically taken in a bus accident in India during her travels when she was just 21 years old. An avid philanthropist at a young age, Cherese was passionate about helping children, volunteering at local hospitals, and making a difference in her community. The foundation named in her memory provides much-needed funds to charitable organizations, such as CHOC, that reflect Cherese’s dedication to enriching the lives of children. This is the largest donation ever given by the Cherese Mari Laulhere Foundation.
CHOC: How does supporting the child life department at CHOC honor your daughter’s memory?
Larry and Chris Laulhere: Supporting CHOC’s child life department and the inspiring ways its specialists and programs positively impact patients and families each and every day is a wonderful tribute to our daughter and her dream to make the world a better place for children. We think about Cherese every day, especially on her birthday, September 17 and also on holidays. We know the pain of not being able to celebrate these occasions with our daughter, and we want to help ensure other families don’t miss out on these types of celebrations due to a hospital stay. The child life team helps ensure patients and families do not miss out on celebrating birthdays, holidays, proms, graduation and other special events due to a hospital stay.
CHOC: What aspect of the child life department are you most passionate about?
LCL: The entire department is incredible. From art and music therapy to Seacrest Studios, child life offers hospitalized children positive distractions that help them focus on what matters most: being kids. Patients see all of the child life activities as playtime, but we know that everything is therapeutic and intended to support children’s emotional, developmental and psychological well-being. In addition to the support given to the patients, child life specialists are also there for siblings. We can’t say enough about CHOC’s child life department and are so pleased to have it named in our daughter’s honor.
CHOC: What qualities of your daughter do you see in child life specialists?
LCL: Cherese poured her heart and soul into everything she did and every interaction she had with people. She was compassionate and sincere. She was beautiful inside and out. We see so much of that kind, giving spirit in the child life specialists. These are special health care professionals who go above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of young patients and their families.