Additional editions: Program seeks books for cancer patients to read to children

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.

The chapter is looking for more partners to host book drives.

“We’re like the little engine that could — we’re giving it the best we can,” Freund said.

The foundation’s aim is to work with hospitals and cancer centers all over the country to provide new children’s books to cancer patients who would enjoy reading to children. The program is currently running in Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, Maine and San Diego.

The San Diego chapter is also looking to partner with youth groups to host book drives. The chapter currently has a 13-year-old junior board member, Rachel Glovinsky, who helps groups set up book drives. Rachel joined the chapter two years ago and hosted a book drive at her school that brought in more than 250 books.

“One of the most enjoyable things I did with my parents when I was growing up was reading. So naturally, this organization’s goal was appealing to me,” Rachel wrote in a letter to the chapter’s board. “This experience taught me a lot! I take my parents for granted. Some kids my age have to worry about being able to see their parents ...”

Pauporte died when her daughter was only 4 years old, but her legacy of bonding with a child by reading together continues through the work of the foundation.

Host a book drive

If you go

  • What: Leap On Over, third annual family fundraiser for Light One Little Candle
  • When: 3 to 5 p.m. May 15
  • Where: Moores UCSD Cancer Center, Bamboo Garden, 3855 Health Sciences Drive, La Jolla
  • Cost: Free admission with donation of new children’s classic books for ages infant to 12 years; parking, $3, in Moore’s main visitor lot
  • Details: Entertainment by The Supper Club; refreshments by Froglanders of La Jolla; Frog and Toad reading
  • Book wish list: