Shannon and Doug Hubbel of Richmond found out a little over two years ago that their daughter Emily had a tumor on her adrenal gland. Soon after that, Emily was diagnosed with a type of cancer called neuroblastoma. Since that time, Emily, now a bright and courageous five-and-ahalf- year-old, has battled pediatric cancer with her devoted parents and two siblings on her team.
The Hubbel family also has the Fairy Godmother Project, a Richmond nonprofit founded in January 2012, on its side.
Laura Leporati is the founder of the Richmond chapter of FGP, which also has a branch in Fredericksburg. Leporati says her experience with her own child’s non-life threatening illness at a young age inspired her to start FGP in Richmond. “All of the tests, pokes, and uncomfortable situations,” says Leporati about her daughter’s ordeal. “And at the end of her hospitalization – for what turned out to be a bad virus – I said to my husband ‘Can you imagine what parents go through when their kids are really sick?'”
That’s when Leporati decided to do something to help families facing pediatric cancer. She organized a race event to benefit a local organization serving families challenged with pediatric cancer in Richmond. When that went well, she looked into the Fairy Godmother Project and met Andrea McConnell, who had founded the organization in Fredericksburg the year before.
Together the pair launched FGP Richmond in January 2012. With donations from individuals and local businesses, FGP provides domestic goods and services to help families manage daily life – things like meal-making, lawn care, housekeeping, and home organization. FGP also provides a professional photography session to each family free of charge as a way to preserve memories.
In its first year of operations, the Richmond chapter has helped three families and is currently working with two families. “We pride ourselves on taking excellent care of a smaller number of families, rather than providing a little support to a large number of families,” says Leporati.
Shannon Hubbel, Emily’s mom, works fulltime as an occupational health specialist, in addition to spending a great deal of time trying to manage her daughter’s illness and journey to recovery. Doug Hubbel works part-time in security. Emily’s treatments have taken the family to several states. Balancing the normal stresses of everyday family life is a difficult task for most families. What will we have for dinner? Who’s cutting the grass this week? How will the kids get to soccer? Questions like these, and their answers, can be immensely challenging for a family when a child is battling pediatric cancer.
Driving from work to her Chesterfield home one night with all of the stresses of life on her mind, Emily’s mother says the one thing she didn’t have to worry about – that evening at least – was making dinner for her family. Dinner would be delivered by a volunteer from FGP.
Hubbel said that while her family receives monthly gift cards from FGP to help with gas and meal expenses, and assistance with domestic services, it is just as important to her that Leporati, the Richmond services coordinator, offers emotional support, regularly checking in on the Hubbels to see if they need anything. “Laura is amazing! She always keeps in touch with us. I love Fairy Godmother Project and what they do for us. They are very compassionate and very caring, which is so important to us.”
Leporati says that because FGP is a nonprof, the organization depends on volunteers to help more families. “The best part is that volunteering with this organization touches the lives of local Richmond families,” says Leporati. “When you’re helping a family make it through another day, you know you’re doing something worthwhile.”