Cherese Mari Laulhere Foundation Donates $5 Million to CHOC Children’s Child Life Department

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.

Cherese Mari Laulhere child life department
Cherese Mari Laulhere

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.

Learn more about the Cherese Mari Laulhere Foundation.

Related posts:

CHOC Toy Drive December 17

Community members wishing to spread holiday cheer to CHOC Children’s patients and families are invited to participate in CHOC’s annual toy drive. The event will be held Saturday, Dec. 17 from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. outside our employee parking structure, located at 557 S. Main St. in Orange.

Due to limited storage space, gift cards are encouraged, to places such as: Target, Toys “R” Us, Wal-Mart, Michael’s and Amazon.  Visa gift cards are also appreciated, as are grocery store or gas station gift cards that can be distributed to families in need. Gift cards allow trained child life specialists to hand-select toys, games and activities that best meet the needs of our patients.

Those wishing to donate toys are encouraged to view our wish list prior to the toy drive and choose from items our child life specialists find most appropriate and popular among our diverse family and patient population. Donors are encouraged to sort and box their gifts before delivery.

“We do everything we can to make this time of year very special and festive for our patients who have to spend the holidays in the hospital,” says Stephanie Chami, manager of CHOC’s child life department. “Every day of the year, child life specialists strive to normalize the hospital experience for kids and teens, and these gifts are just one way we keep patients encouraged and engaged.”

Community members unable to participate in the toy drive can view the hospital’s wish list via our Amazon registry by searching Children’s Hospital of Orange County. Donations will be shipped directly to CHOC. During the month of December we are unable to accept donations in the main hospital lobby.

Due to infection control guidelines, all donated items must be new. We are unfortunately not able to accept used toys, handmade items or stuffed animals.

Related posts:

CHOC Celebrates Child Life Week

The team of child life specialists at CHOC strives to “normalize” the hospital environment for patients and families. By making things like medical procedures and equipment less foreign,  patients can focus on what’s important: feeling better.

Their work includes surgery preparation and support; therapeutic medical play; new diagnosis education and support; developmental stimulation; sibling support; and specialized therapeutic programs like pet, art and music therapy.

This week, during Child Life Week, CHOC celebrates our fabulous and dynamic child life team, and the role they play in our commitment to patient and family-centered care. Watch this video for a glimpse into CHOC’s child life services.

Learn more about the child life department.

Related articles:

Toy Drive to Support CHOC Patients, Families Dec.19

CHOC is grateful for the support of our community, especially during the holiday season as people wish to remember our patients and families. Our annual holiday toy drive will be held Saturday, Dec. 19 from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. in our employee parking structure, located at 557 South Main Street, Orange, CA 92868. We are unable to accept donations in the main hospital lobby.

Due to limited storage space, the donation of gift cards is encouraged. This enables our trained child life specialists to purchase toys and craft supplies based on the developmental age and gender of our current patients. Gift cards to stores such as Target, Toys “R” Us, Babies “R” Us, Walmart, Michaels, Barnes & Noble, and Visa/MasterCard gift cards are greatly appreciated.

Those wishing to donate toys can refer to our Wish List to choose from the items we find the most appropriate and popular with CHOC’s diverse patient and family population. We are always in need of more activities for our teen population.

Community members unable to participate in the toy drive but interested in donating can log on to and search for the “Children’s Hospital of Orange County” wish list. Donations will be shipped directly to CHOC.

Please note that we are unable to accept the following items:

  • Stuffed animals
  • Handmade blankets, hats, socks, etc.
  • Get well cards
  • Big items: bikes, skate boards, etc.
  • VHS tapes
  • Used toys
  • Clothing
  • Promotional items with company logos

For more information, please call 714-509-4519.

Thank you for your continued support of CHOC Children’s!

Preparing Your Child for Surgery

Surgery is scary for kids and parents, alike, but not talking about an upcoming surgical procedure can create more fear and anxiety in children. In episode number 29, Child Life Specialist Brianne Ortiz offers tips for preparing children, from toddlers to teens, for surgery.

The amount of information, in addition to how and when it’s presented, depends on the emotional and cognitive age of the child. Brianne recommends parents speak to children, ages 3 to 5, approximately three to five days before the scheduled surgery. These younger-aged children often think they’ve done something wrong, so it’s important to reassure them that’s not the case and to present information in concrete terms they understand. She reminds parents that toddlers don’t have a concept of time. Instead of saying a procedure will last an hour, for example, explain that it will be over in about the same time as their favorite TV show.

Adolescents most often worry about waking up during surgery and about pain. Brianne educates teens on the role of the anesthesiologist and the hospital’s pain scale. She encourages teens to engage with their care team and not be afraid to speak up.

Listen to the episode for more helpful tips, including resources offered by CHOC.

CHOC Radio theme music by Pat Jacobs.

Related posts: