In between treatments for breast cancer, Joelle Pauporte read favorite books to her preschool daughter. Reading time became a bonding time that kept the two close despite her illness, which led to her death a few years later in 2005.
Before she died at age 36, Pauporte came up with the idea of a program that would give patients fighting cancer a way to bond with the children in their lives by reading books together. Pauporte called the program, Light One Little Candle, after the lullaby she sang to her daughter every bedtime.
Pauporte's family and friends carried on her idea through the Light One Little Candle Foundation, which provides books to patients receiving cancer treatment at 10 medical centers on the East Coast where Pauporte lived and in San Diego at Moores UCSD Cancer Center.
"We hope the books will bring a joyous moment into these people's lives. They might be too sick to get to their child's soccer game or school play, but they can sit with a child and read books," said Patricia Freund, the chapter's co-chairwoman.
The chapter is hosting a frog-themed fundraiser to collect new books on May 15 at the Moores UCSD Cancer Center.
Last year, the San Diego chapter gave out more than 800 books at the center.
Freund and several other volunteers go around the center with a book cart and help patients select a book they might like to read to a child, grandchild or any young person they know. "Sometimes they'll remember a favorite book from their childhood they want to read," Freund said.
"You can see a light in their eyes — they need a happy moment."
Most of the patients the chapter gives books to at the Moores Cancer Center are adults, but the group also gives books to some children who are receiving treatment there. The chapter tries to keep the cart stocked with about 100 children's books for every age group from infant to teen. Each book has a bookplate where a message can be written to the recipient.
"It's simple — we're putting children and books together and helping cancer patients get some diversion," said Charlotte Perry, chapter co-chairwoman.
Perry, a La Jolla resident and retired school librarian, first got involved in the San Diego chapter when her neighbor Shirley Tulin told her about the nonprofit. Tulin, a retired social worker who was 82 years old at the time, got the ball rolling to establish the program at the Moores UCSD Cancer Center.
"I watched Shirley push the book cart around," Freund said, "and I saw how overwhelmed people were — they didn't expect it, and it hit home."
Tulin, Perry and Freund were among the chapter's first members in 2006. The chapter now includes six board members who volunteer with the book cart or help collect books.
The group is partnering with local Girl Scout troops, civic groups, churches, schools and businesses to host book drives for the program at the Moores UCSD Cancer Center. Some of the chapter's partners include Shirley Tulin's Thursday Book Club of La Jolla, which donated the book cart; Dingeman Elementary School in Scripps Ranch; Heritage Elementary in Chula Vista; Club Altura of La Jolla; the Astra Club at the University of San Diego; Bayview Baptist Church; the Gold Diggers; Girl Scouts; and Merrill Lynch's and Goldman Sachs' San Diego offices.