Mom story: I left Hollywood to help sick kids

After realizing that she wanted to help families with critically ill children, Paula DuPre’ Pesmen, 50, quit her job as an associate producer in Hollywood and returned home to Boulder, Colorado, to start There With Care, a nonprofit that gives families a hand. The mother of two boys ages 7 and 10, Paula knows from personal experience how important it is to have people to lean on.

by Paula DuPre’ Pesmen
as told to Julie Weingarden Dubin

I loved working behind the scenes on the first three Harry Potter films. I learned a great deal about the industry as an associate producer and I learned even more about the fragility of life.

During my time working on the Harry Potter movies, I started a program with the movie’s director, Chris Columbus, to welcome sick children and their families to the sets. Children with life-threatening illnesses were given a day to escape their worries and pain and visit the world of Harry Potter. While spending time with those special families, I discovered how people wanted to help, but didn’t know what to say or do, so they often didn’t do anything.

When I first started talking to families who came to the sets, I mentioned that I bet there were many people wanting to help them. But that wasn’t the case. Surprisingly, most said that people weren’t calling or coming over. They felt alone and I realized that these families needed support.

A deeper meaning

I understand how desperate and alone people can feel at such a vulnerable time in their lives. I helped my husband, Curt, battle advanced colon cancer in 2001.

In 2005, it became clear what I needed to do. I quit my job as a producer and moved back home to Boulder, Colorado, to start There With Care, a nonprofit that connects people who want to help with those who need it. I wasn’t nervous about leaving a movie career behind. After going through my husband’s battle with cancer and then spending time with so many families enduring critical illness, I couldn’t imagine not being there for these families.

Holding families together

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There With Care provides a broad range of services, allowing the program coordinators to shift services as the families’ needs change. Whether it’s offering babysitting for the families’ other kids, cooking and delivering meals, shopping for necessities or giving rides to chemo appointments, There With Care is ready to step in and offer support. We reach families in Colorado and California, and have 500 volunteers. We serve on average 80 to 100 families each day.

My work with There With Care is rewarding and fulfilling. It’s truly a privilege to be a small part of the support for a family facing critical illness. What these families go through is going to happen — we can’t change that, but we can break down their isolation. Our goal is to take just a few things off of their plate so they can focus on their children.

My inspiration

My children, Josh and Jesse, have brought me and my husband so much joy and laughter. We no longer look at just our lives, but we look at our family’s lives and the future of our boys. Everything I do in regards to work has been inspired by my children.

I hope that my sons are learning compassion through There With Care and that it’s important to share what we have, because we all need to take care of each other.

Mom wisdom

When things are challenging, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. You can’t fix everything, but you can do little things that add up. I find comfort when I stay focused on my family. Family is where I’m most grounded and it’s where the love is.

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