We reporters become really good at distancing ourselves from our stories. But, sometimes we have an experience that we just can't shake. Almost seven years ago, I interviewed Joelle Pauporte, a Connecticut mom suffering from aggressive breast cancer that had spread to her lungs and bones. Through tears, she told me: "I just hope that I'm going to be that one miracle case." Like all of us, she desperately yearned to see her young child grow up. Four months later, she died at the age of 36. But, amazingly, her work has lived on, even growing and flourishing with every passing year. "Light One Little Candle" continues to burn bright in memory of it's dynamic founder.
"I see a book and it just brings her immediately to me," says Jane Breen, a children's librarian in West Hartford who helped Pauporte build a "forever library" for her daughter. During this process, Pauporte was struck with an idea. "She realized there was something bigger she could do," says Breen, remembering how Pauporte really grasped the fact that a shared reading experience can inspire loving moments and provide a serene reprieve for families during the darkest times. "If you're sitting on someone's lap or sitting next to them, you know, you kind of get Grandpa's cologne, Mommy's smell, Mommy's heartbeat. Those memories are all part of it," says Breen. So, Pauporte started "Light One Little Candle", a completely free program that provides books to cancer centers around the state, and now, across the country. Even when she was exhausted from chemotherapy and radiation, she dedicated herself into making this project a success. "She did a lot of the door to door herself," smiles Breen. "She was quite a force. I always called her 'The Little Engine That Could.'" As a psychiatrist, helping others came naturally to her. "It did keep her going," says Breen, the foundation's co-president along with Lee Rosenberg, Pauporte's childhood friend who lives on Long Island.
"We've got 14 programs in 7 states," says Rosenberg, who plans to someday fulfill Pauporte's goal of reaching every hospital in every city throughout the country. "There are a lot of patient services but there's not a lot that are focused on the family, away from the illness." So far, the foundation has distributed more than 20,000 new books, that are not about sickness or death, to families fighting cancer. "It is a gift. We want them reading a nice story that makes them feel good that brings smiles to their faces," says Rosenberg, who like Breen, feels Pauporte's spirit around her everyday.
I was about six months pregnant with my second son when I met this incredible woman. Shortly after our interview, I received a small package from her, containing a copy of "Days With Frog and Toad" for my new baby. It remains one of our favorite books and, every time we read it, I think of her. She taught me about bravery, generosity and honesty, and that a simple concept can make a huge difference.
>>To contribute your own adventures in motherhood, or to read more from Fox CT reporter Sarah Cody and freelancer Teresa Pelham, go to http://www.ctnow.com/mommyminute.