A Cancer Tragedy Inspired One Mom to Help Thousands of Sick Children

After Leslie Morissette lost her son to leukemia, she turned her pain into action.

Editor’s Note: This is part of a special series, Moms Who Wow Us, where we partnered with , , and the show to honor everyday heroes ahead of Mother’s Day. You can read about all the moms we’re celebrating here.

A big challenge facing children who are seriously ill is keeping up with schoolwork. One mom’s high-tech solution: having hospitalized kids attend classes via robots (the robot’s screen displays a live video feed of the child), allowing them to virtually join in discussions, go on field trips, and generally feel connected.

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leslie morissette
Leslie Morissette's innovative idea helps vulnerable kids thrive.
David Scott Holloway/CNN

After Leslie Morissette lost her son, Graham, to leukemia on Christmas Eve in 1997, she honored him by founding , a nonprofit that provides free electronic devices to other sick kids. Since its inception she’s helped over 1,600 kids. “He was really into communication and keeping in touch, always asking the doctors and nurses for their e-mail addresses,” she says.

Though Leslie was an art director for 12 years and ran Grahamtastic on the side, she now focuses on her nonprofit full time. Offering sick children free technology — whether it’s a telepresence robot, iPad, laptop, or internet access — helps first and foremost with education.

“When a child is in the hospital, parents want to do anything to allow him or her some normalcy,” she says. “We connect kids to their normal world when it’s out of reach.” Some kids who would’ve missed an entire school year can now go by robot and actually pass onto the next grade level without stepping foot inside the building. Equally important, though, is the social connection. “It stops the feeling of isolation not just from the classroom, but from friends and family too,” she adds.

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To donate iPads and laptops or to learn more, visit .

GET MORE INSPIRATION! In the series “Amazing Moms Today,” airing the week of May 7 on NBC’s Today, Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb will highlight moms making positive changes in their communities.

Giving back is part of 's DNA, which is why they're applauding these inspiring moms by providing roundtrip flights for their appearance on NBC's Today.

This story was originally published in the May 2018 issue of Good Housekeeping.

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