“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers
to turn on the light.”
–Albus Dumbledore, in “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”
By Lisa Truesdale
As a Hollywood producer working on the first three Harry Potter movies, Paula DuPré Pesmen learned a lot about the world’s most famous boy wizard. And, like Harry, she realized she was in a position to use her powers for good.
Inspired by her husband’s battle with cancer, Pesmen started a wish-granting program to host sick children on the Harry Potter movie set. One day, she had an epiphany: Although she was happy they could make the kids smile, even for just an afternoon, families with critically ill children face isolation. They need a lot more assistance than a few magical hours at Hogwarts can provide.
“When a family has a critically ill child, one parent has to quit their job, and it doesn’t take long for the family to be in financial distress,” she explains. “Even the most basic things, like grocery shopping and running errands, become overwhelming.”
So, in 2005, Pesmen founded There With Care, a nonprofit that started in her garage and has since expanded to include a main office in Boulder, a small office in Denver, a food pantry in Aurora and a chapter in the San Francisco area. After receiving referrals from social workers at 15 different hospitals, There With Care provides the basics a family needs when they’re dealing with a medical crisis—things like groceries, diapers, cleaning supplies, gas cards, and toys and games that keep a child’s mind (and their siblings’ minds) off their illness, if only for a little while.
“We take these things off a family’s plate when they’re in crisis so they have the time they need to focus on their critically ill child and on their family,” Pesmen says. “One mom said to me, ‘The meals were so helpful. I didn’t have to worry about what to make for dinner, but instead I could just focus on my kids and make memories.’”
There With Care is able to handle a few hundred cases at a time—about 150–175 in the Boulder office alone—thanks to a dedicated full- and part-time staff that equals about 20, a board of directors and a whopping 800 volunteers who sort donations, assemble care packages, deliver to the families, raise funds and work at events.
Anne Trujillo, an evening news anchor at Denver’s Channel 7, is a member of There With Care’s board of directors. When she met Pesmen, she was immediately “hooked” on the organization’s mission of providing “thoughtful care.” (It also helped that Trujillo and her family are Harry Potter fanatics; they even own a Ford Anglia, the car featured in the films.)
“I say ‘thoughtful care’ because it’s never just a one-size-fits-all approach,” Trujillo says. “Families have very specific needs when they are in medical crisis, and the staff and volunteers spend time talking and truly listening to families so they can find the right ways to help them along their journey. It’s meaningful work, and I’m proud to be associated with such an incredible organization.”
Although providing food is an essential component of There With Care’s mission, Pesmen emphasizes that it’s so much more than that.
“It’s never just a bag of groceries,” she says. “We’re building a community around families in crisis, and we always add a personal touch. Volunteers decorate the delivery bags, and they sign cards of love and support for the whole family.
“Yes, it usually starts with food delivery. But it turns into a family knowing they’re not alone.”
Visit www.therewithcare.org to learn how you can help.