Inspired by Our Friend, Laura Crawley, who would be celebrating her 40th birthday today.
Through our lives, we’re fortunate to have friends, family and colleagues who give our lives richness and meaning. When there’s a life-changing event—a serious illness, the birth of a child, the death of someone close—we all want to pitch in and help because it’s what friends do. And that’s exactly how WhatFriendsDo got its start.
In 1985, five-year-old Stephanie Kandrac started kindergarten. She formed an instant friendship with another little girl named Laura Crawley. The girls remained inseparable through eighth grade. Despite attending different high schools and colleges, Stephanie and Laura remained best friends.
In September 2005, Laura was hospitalized with a brain tumor. Stephanie visited her friend at the hospital daily. With Laura’s permission, Stephanie began emailing updates to friends and family. Soon, Stephanie and her mother Fran enlisted other friends to brainstorm ideas on how to show support and love of Laura and her family. Stephanie ordered wristbands imprinted with "♥ Laura's Team ♥" for friends to wear. The wristbands arrived the day of Laura's first brain surgery. The symbol of unity represented by the wristbands and their wearers brought an immediate bond and strength to support Laura. This was the beginning of Laura's Team.
Each act of kindness ignited another. Childhood friend Bryan Grimes volunteered to create a website for Laura. Another friend volunteered to host the site. Emails from an account called Laura's Team shared news of Laura’s condition and arrangements for meals and various ways to help Laura and her family.
Laura spent the next several months undergoing surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation. She was weak, had constant headaches, and unable to get out and about. As Christmas approached, treatments were not slowing Laura's cancer and the news was discouraging. Laura's sister, Caroline, sent an email to Fran asking if there might be a few people who would go caroling at Laura's house.
An email was sent to Laura’s Team and a chorus was formed! Most of the carolers didn’t know one another, but were bound together by the shared desire to support Laura. The group surprised Laura with a beautiful start to the holidays. From this activity, Laura’s Team celebrated "the twelve days of Christmas," leaving fun
surprises on Laura's doorstep each day. The joy the activity brought Laura and to her team was magical. When Laura said she hated to see it end, the reaction was, "Well then, it won't stop!"
Every few weeks, emails were sent to Laura’s Team with a list of fun events and ideas of how to celebrate, such as National Popcorn Day, Puzzle Day, Plant A Flower Day, Random Acts of Kindness Day. Messages were frequently sent to Laura's Team requesting special assistance—funds to purchase a particular item,
labor to accomplish a specific task. Without fail, the response was overwhelming. The team concept enabled people from all aspects of Laura's life to be involved and connected. Like traditional teams, each team member brought a different skill set and different interest. Different activities appealed to different team members, thus nobody was doing it all and the cheer and support for Laura and her family was constant.
Over and over we heard comments that "everyone needs a Laura's Team" when going through difficult times. The Kandrac family listened carefully, eventually staring WhatFriendsDo to enable similar miracles of support for anyone in need.
Although Laura did not see the launch of WhatFriendsDo, she participated in the planning of the website and social platform, and was honored that it would be dedicated to her. She lives in our hearts forever, and any joy WhatFriendsDo brings to someone else's journey is a tribute to Laura.
While WhatFriendsDo continues to grow, we never lose sight of Laura and the unique way cheer was provided to her and how technology enabled a large number of people to participate and stay connected. Our vision is simple: To empower a world where support and cheer are freely given, in ways that are inspired and beneficial, by people sharing a single purpose and a single social platform. Thank you, Laura!