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Pascale’s Pals has a simple objective: making children happy. Although that might sound easy enough, for children battling chronic diseases and spending a lot of time in the hospital, making a child smile can be a pretty hefty goal. Still, Pascale’s Pals has been successful in spreading cheer and happiness during some of the most difficult times of a child’s life.
Sylvie Carpentier established Pascale’s Pals in 1995 after realizing the lack of excitement and joy in her daughter Pascale’s life while she was battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Carpentier and a few of her close friends founded Pascale’s Pals Inc. as a nonprofit corporation. Pascale had a relapse in 2000, during which time an anonymous donor provided children waiting for bone marrow transplants with $200 to spend as they pleased. Carpentier saw how Pascale beamed with excitement, and she realized how necessary it was to bring joy to a sick child’s life.
‘It helps them heal’
Through donations, proceeds from a live and silent auction and other fundraisers, Pascale’s Pals provides children at University Women and Children’s Hospital, as well as children at Rusk Rehabilitation Center, with wish baskets that typically run from $700 to $1,000. The wish baskets are primarily given to children suffering from chronic diseases and who will be spending significant time in the hospital. Pascale’s Pals is transparent that it’s a Christian-based organization, and each basket includes an age-appropriate Bible, journal and a special gift the child requests. The organization delivers between 15 to 20 wish baskets a year, and the recipients of the wish baskets are patients who are recommended by social workers at the hospital.
“It started back in the day with Game Boys; that was the big thing,” says Lotta Timberlake, a friend ofCarpentier and partner of Pascale’s Pals. “Now we get requests for trampolines, iPads and computers, just something we can bring them [the children] to lift their spirits and something their parents might not be able to afford. It is important to help the child feel a little bit of happiness because it helps them heal.”
Along with the wish baskets, Pascale’s Pals has made some major donations and renovations to the Women and Children’s Hospital itself; the organization has donated TVs for every room, sleeper beds so parents can sleep next to their children, a playground, a renovated waiting room and a medical machine that acts as a vein viewer and uses a light to show the patient’s veins so children are poked less with needles.
Pascale’s Pals is focused on bringing happiness to children’s lives, and it’s also there to provide financial support and help families that are struggling to meet more practical needs. In the past, the nonprofit has given money for families that need help buying food, airline tickets, propane to heat their homes and, in some situations, funeral costs.
“What’s so unique about Pascale’s Pals it is the one-on-one, immediate assistance that we give,” Timberlake says. “We don’t have to go through a board meeting and this or that. There’s no overhead; every penny we get goes straight to the kids and stays with the kids.”
‘It’s in all of us’
Pascale’s Pals raises money mainly through its live and silent auction held in March. Last year, it had 710 people attend the auction and 50 volunteers helping to run the event. Carpentier and Timberlake both have seen a common trend of former Pascale’s Pals kids growing up and giving back to the organization.
“Last year we had the first kid we helped [in 1995] come to the auction with his baby that he just had,” Carpentier says. “All those families that we had been helped are now helping back. Every year at the auction we get a lab puppy from someone in Cape Girardeau; we have never met the donator, but because we brought a basket to her niece, she wants to helps us out, and that puppy raises around $3,000 every year.”
Pascale’s Pals projects last year at the Women and Children’s Hospital included renovating the neonatal intensive care unit, establishing a courtyard, updating the playground, providing educational materials to patients about hospital items and purchasing books for parents about cystic fibrosis.
“I never thought it would be this big,” Carpentier says. “The first time we all got together, we were doing a bake sale. We have done a lot, but there is still more to do. I’m waiting for the next big project. I would like to redo the playroom; I would like it to be magical.”
Although Carpentier and Timberlake work hard to make the children happy and their lives a bit brighter, both women agree the experience of watching Pascale’s Pals grow makes their lives much brighter as well.
“The whole aspect of being able to give and help, it’s in all of us,” Timberlake says. “For me to have the opportunity to do that, it’s a gift. It’s so fulfilling.”