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'Godmothers' a godsend
Stafford County mothers form Fairy Godmother Project, a group dedicated to help families with children with cancer

 After children of friends were stricken with cancer, Stephanie Johnson (left) and Andie McConnell created the Fairy Godmother Project, which brings volunteers together to help with meals, chores and errands for families going through pediatric cancer treatments.
REZA MARVASHTI/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 10/10/2011

By CATHY DYSON

Andie McConnell saw two families go through the same isolation and despair after their children were diagnosed with cancer.

They struggled to keep up with daily chores as the disease--and its treatment--took over their lives.

Then, they watched well-meaning friends drift away. Perhaps they couldn't bear to be reminded that cancer is the leading cause of death in children through age 15.

"People just disappeared," said McConnell, who heard about the same situation from friends, six years apart, in Phoenix and Stafford County. "The support that you think should be there isn't."

McConnell, a mother of three, decided to provide it. With her friend, Stephanie Johnson, a part-time photographer with five children, McConnell formed the Fairy Godmother Project.

The group has two missions: to offer domestic help to families in "survival mode," as one mother put it, and to provide lasting memories, through photos, of little ones who may not be here long.

"For complete strangers to reach out and help the way they have they've just been wonderful," said Melanie Downie of Alexandria.

She's a single mother to Brian, a 6-year-old who has had more than 50 bone tumors in five years. Fairy godmothers have cleaned, cooked and cut the grass--tasks Downie didn't have time for between Brian's illness and her job as a government contractor.

"This is the first organization that has taken on the family, catered to what the family needs," she said. "It makes a huge difference."

'IT'S A GODSEND'

McConnell and Johnson both live in Stafford and joke that they don't like cleaning their own houses. But they'll gladly do it for others.

They have 10 trained volunteers who have helped about six families with domestic duties.

Their assistance has lowered the stress level of Lynelle Kapinos of Stafford. She and her husband, Jim, have two daughters, Lauren, 5, and Lyndsey, 3, and Lauren has battled leukemia all year.

Jim Kapinos is a frugal shopper who has stocked their three freezers. But as Lynelle Kapinos takes Lauren for treatment and deals with the side effects of chemotherapy, remembering what's in which freezer is the last thing on her mind.


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The Fairy Godmother Project is part of Journey 4 A Cure, a group that's raising funds for research and development of a cure for pediatric cancer. It was inspired by Declan Carmical, a twin who was born six weeks early and died of cancer eight days before his first birthday.

Based in Loudoun County, the organization was looking for ways to provide sources for families when Andie McConnell, co-founder of the fairy godmothers, contacted them, said President Beth Collingwood.

"Their ideas and mission were exactly what we knew families needed most," said Collingwood, who is Declan's aunt and watched his parents go through the physical, emotional and financial devastation.

Donations to the Fairy Godmother Project can be sent to Journey 4 A Cure, Inc., 43300-116 Southern Walk Plaza #649, Broadlands, Va. 20148. Donors are asked to put FGP in the memo line.

The fairy godmothers also are looking for volunteers. More information is available at 540/751-8347 or at vafg2011@gmail.com. Their website is: fairygodmotherproject.blog spot.com.