Chris and Larry Laulhere of The Cherese Mari Laulhere Foundation are longtime Guidance Center supporters who have made a tremendous impact for our children. The proof is on the door of one of our Play Therapy Rooms named for their late daughter, Cherese. The importance and power of Play Therapy in giving children a voice is an integral part of the healing process for many of our children.
Cherese Mari Laulhere is beloved by many. She was born on September 17, 1974 in Long Beach, California and at the age of 21 her life was tragically and unexpectedly taken on March 27, 1996 on a study abroad trip in Agra, India. That same year, Chris and Larry created this foundation in memory of their late daughter. The mission of the foundation is to support charitable organizations and causes that reflect Cherese’s passions in life, with an emphasis on caring for children and families.
It is with our deepest appreciation that we thank The Cherese Mari Laulhere Foundation for all they have done for The Guidance Center, and all that they have done and continue to do for the children and families of the Long Beach community and beyond, in the name of Cherese Mari Laulhere.
We sat down and chatted with Chris and Larry Laulhere about Cherese’s story, and how her spirit continues to make a difference through the foundation today.
Can you tell us about Cherese and her interests?
I’ll never forget the day Cherese was born. Her precious smile melted our hearts from the very first moment we saw her. From a very young age, she was just beyond her years in many ways. Childish, fun, silly – all the normal kind of things – but she also had a very serious side in her tremendous compassion and caring for people, children and family.
She cared so much for animals and the environment, too. Upon entering 10th grade at Wilson High School, she decided to become a vegetarian and an active supporter of animal rights, donating all her leather shoes, belts and purses. When Cherese learned about a program named PAWS/LA, she quickly got involved. PAWS/LA means Pets Are Wonderful Support / For People Living with HIV/AIDS / Los Angeles. She would take pets for veterinary care when their owners could not. Cherese loved animals, especially dogs and cats.
During her junior year, Cherese co-founded the “Environmental Awareness Club” at Wilson. They arranged beach clean-ups, litter collection, recycling programs and enlisted the help of many to be aware and do their part in preserving the environment. I believe the group still exists today.
She was also so eager to learn and try new things. She danced both tap and jazz, studied drama at Wilson and performed, joined the track team, loved to swim, skate and bike, and even made the varsity tennis team the first year she tried out. The list goes on. She even completed a triathlon with her brother!
Cherese was just such a hard worker. She worked diligently to achieve high marks in both high school and college. Cherese had goals and high expectations. She was realistic and sensible, extremely cautious, always weighing the pros and cons of a situation before making a move.
She touched many lives throughout her entire life. Learning about different cultures and how they lived was very important to her. She just wanted all people to get along. All people, all races, all religions.
While she was attending UCLA, she decided to participate in the Semester at Sea study abroad program to visit a handful of different countries, to experience different cultures and ultimately make a difference in others’ lives.
She was really the most touched by the orphanages and schools she visited where she got to interact with the children. She visited orphanages in Venezuela, Brazil, South Africa, and Kenya. She wrote about these experiences in her journal. I remember she specifically wrote about a little girl at one of the orphanages they visited that just hung on to her and how she wished that she could have brought her home. She and another student on the trip even talked about opening their own orphanage when they got back. That was Cherese’s heart.
What caused you to start the Foundation in her name?
Cherese always said, “I want to make a difference in this world.” She did while she was here, giving her heart and soul with compassion, sincerity and love. The beauty upon her smiling face was a reflection of all things beautiful within her. When we lost Cherese, we just knew that this was what we had to do. We had to keep Cherese’s memory alive, and carry out her hopes and dreams. She wanted to make a difference and help children, women, and families, so that’s why we started it.
Even though you didn’t get to meet her, we want you to feel like you know her in your heart. That helps us get through it. Larry and I always say that this is the most important – if you never remember Larry and I, that’s okay – just don’t ever forget Cherese. It’s her we want you to know. We just want her to continue to touch lives for as long as possible. We always try and think that this is something that Cherese would have chosen. This is what she would have done. She was an amazing daughter, sister, friend, to everybody.
What are some of the other causes and organizations the Foundation supports?
Cherese was so dedicated to bettering the lives of children, adults and families, and particularly passionate about education, cultural and performing arts, and medical and healthcare related cases that help both people and animals.
The causes and organizations that the foundation supports reflect what she felt passionate about: Ronald McDonald House, Women’s Shelter of Long Beach, Long Beach Memorial, Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC), Tichenor Orthopedic Clinic for Children, Children Today, Locks of Love, Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital Long Beach, Boys and Girls Club Long Beach, and numerous medical research programs to benefit children.
As I mentioned, Cherese also loved and cared for animals. We’ve donated to PAWS/LA, the Human Farming Association, and Coastal German Shepard Rescue Orange County. After seeing the effects of pet therapy recently at CHOC, we’ve even played around with the idea of getting a dog ourselves to start a program with. We’re always going to support the causes and programs that Cherese gives to now because they just feel right, but we know we need to explore more.
If you could leave a message with our readers, what would it be?
Just know Cherese’s heart and compassion and gratitude. Cherese had so much gratitude for life and her family. The greatest thing we appreciate is you getting to know her heart and who she was and will always be to us.
To learn more about the Cherese Mari Laulhere Foundation, visit Cherese.org.