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CHOC receives $5 million donation from Long Beach family to endow Child Life Department

From The Orange County Register

By Jonathan Winslow / Staff Writer

CHOC Children's President and CEO Kimberly Chavalas Cripe, left, with Larry and Chris Laulhere.

CHOC Children’s President and CEO Kimberly Chavalas Cripe, left, with Larry and Chris Laulhere.

ORANGE – A $5 million donation from a Long Beach family to the Children’s Hospital of Orange County will keep patients active and playing and distracted from the stresses their illness

The gift comes from the Cherese Mari Laulhere Foundation, started by Chris and Larry Laulhere to honor their daughter who died in a bus accident 20 years ago at age 21. Though still young, Cherese was already passionate about making the world a better place for children, her parents said.

This is the foundation’s largest donation yet.

CHOC announced the gift during a holiday celebration Wednesday afternoon hosted by the newly renamed Cherese Mari Laulhere Child Life Department.

The department’s staff members help children understand their illness and treatments, then give them a means to cope with stays in the hospital. This can come in many ways: therapeutic play, visits from therapy animals, music therapy, dancing, trick or treating, visits from Santa Claus and even a high school prom.

The endowment will bring long-term stability to the department’s programs and fund new ones, Child Life Manager Stephanie Chami said. First on the list is starting an art therapy program.

“We look to provide normal childhood experiences for our kids, so they have things to look forward to, things to motivate them, kind of a reason to get out of bed and be feeling better,” Chami said. “I’m so passionate about the work that Child Life does, I know we can live up to their daughter’s honor.

“I was over the moon grateful,” Chami said, “but also it’s this moment of now having to live up to how much they believe in us.”

Contact the writer: jwinslow@scng.com

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CHOC Children's is affiliated with the UC Irvine School of Medicine