It was 2019 when Dawn and Joe Marchand first stepped through the doors of our Hospice…when their daughter Layla, at just 12 years old, was admitted with terminal cancer.
Dawn explains, “At that time, our lives revolved around Layla, of course, but we also had to remain parents to Ella, who had just started high school, and our twins Hayden and Juno who were three years old.”
Hospice became their new “home.” Dawn would spend each day with Layla in her Hospice suite, and Ella would join them after school, like any teenager coming “home” off the bus. Joe would pick the twins up from JK to bring them “home” as well, so the family could be together.
As a blended family of 6, once they were all settled for the evening at our Hospice, they would try to keep things as normal as possible. “Ella would be doing her homework at a table, while we tried to keep the little ones entertained and distracted. The Hospice Social Workers would come in to see us, and would help engage the little ones, but it was tough at times – they were only three years old, with lots of energy. It was so important that we spend every possible moment with Layla, but at the same time we wanted to keep all of our children close,” says Dawn.
After Layla passed, Joe and Dawn created Layla’s Grace Foundation in her memory. They wanted to give back to Hospice, and based on their personal experience, they immediately recognized an opportunity to help. And so began Layla’s Flutter Packs.
Flutter Packs are special, customized activity packs for kids that are kept on hand at both the Windsor and Erie Shores Hospice Residences. Each is packed full of age-specific, fun activities, games and puzzles. Dawn and Joe collect donations of these items, and also accept monetary donations that allow them to purchase what they need to fill the bags. “Each child has a different capacity to understand what’s happening to their family, but they all have a need for some distraction, some sense of ‘normalcy’ in their lives, and that includes play-time.”
When asked about the name, Flutter Packs, Dawn explains, “Butterflies and rainbows were always a significant connection point for Layla and I. Layla is buried next to my grandmother, and on the day of her funeral, as we were leaving, we saw two beautiful Monarch butterflies land together in the tree over their gravesite. I truly believe that was Layla and her great-grandmother – together.”
“This is such a perfect reflection of Layla. She absolutely loved kids. She was playful and silly and she loved games and crafts and puzzles. It’s like little tidbits of Layla. So, we make sure to include her love of fun in each Flutter Pack.”
Also included is a beautiful note that reads, “This ‘Flutter Pack’ has been gifted to you in memory of Layla Girard, and all the children whose wings were ready when our hearts were not.”
From a place of hurt and loss, Dawn, Joe, and their children have created a Foundation, a continuity of their love for Layla, and helped other families. Their hearts weren’t ready for Layla to have her wings, but they were ready to share those caring hearts with the community. And that is The Hospice Way.
If you’d like to help, and support Layla’s Flutter Packs, please contact Dawn at firstname.lastname@example.org.