She sings, she dances, and she provides
gifts to ease the pain, suffering and fears
of chronically ill children. Five years ago,
Laura Euphrat, a pediatric nurse at
California Pacific Medical Center in San
Francisco, and Joanne Davantes, a fellow
nurse, founded Little Wishes, a nonprofit
organization that grants immediate and
ongoing wishes to hospitalized children.
Since its inception, the program has
fulfilled the desires of more than 3,000
children. Little Wishes are simple: a sushi
dinner, a pair of decorated sneakers, a room
decorated with a Superman motif, a
bubblemaker or a baby swing for an infant.
Any child who has been in the hospital for
more than seven days can make a wish. The
unique aspect of this program is that
children can make a new wish every 14 days
after receiving their first wish, and this
gives them something to look forward to
during their hospitalization.
"I ask the child what their passion is,"
said Euphrat, an 18-year veteran of
pediatric nursing and a married mother of
two preteens. "Children's passions change.
For a lot of our chronically ill kids with
cystic fibrosis or cancer, as they grow
older, they can wish for different things.
One year it might be art, the next year it
might be music and the next year it might
change. My favorite wishes are when they ask
for things like butterflies. You get to go
out and shop for all different types of
butterflies. The search is fun - you can be
Little Wishes has a 13-member board, of
which Euphrat is president and Davantes vice
president. To work its magic, the
organization relies on several volunteer
shoppers and receives monetary donations
from the community. The spending limit for
Little Wishes is $150.
On the day of the interview, Euphrat and
nurse Rachel Cerami surprise 17-year-old
Joey Bordi, who has been in pediatric unit
for three weeks. First, they sing the Little
Wishes theme song, which Euphrat, who
studied musical theater in college before
earning her nursing degree from the
University of San Francisco, wrote to the
tune of Pat Ballard's "Mr. Sandman."
The Little Wishes song
"Little wishes, presents for you
To make your stay here less gloomy and
You make a wish, we make it come true
'Cause Little Wishes is here for you!"
The nurses present Joey with a digital
camera, which he hopes to use to photograph
his friends at parties when he is released
from the hospital.
"All of our wishes take place in the
hospital, with the purpose of bringing
comfort," said Euphrat. "We don't do trips,
we don't give gift certificates or grant
wishes that take place out of the hospital.
We don't do celebrity wishes or beauty
makeovers. Some of the teenage girls will
wish for makeup, but we get them the makeup
and the nurses will help them put it on.
"Normally, when you're in the hospital,
it can be isolating. A lot of the kids can't
leave their rooms. It can become really
boring. There are things that you can
distract them with, but it gets kind of
limited. The beauty is that when they make a
wish, a lot of times, we'll be able to
provide them with a DVD player or a DVD to
watch, or an iPod. It keeps their mind off
of being in the hospital."
The concept of Little Wishes was inspired
by an 8-year-old named Josh, who was
diagnosed with an aggressive form of liver
cancer. Because of his illness, Josh's
abdomen was enlarged, which made him very
uncomfortable. His stay at CPMC went from
days to weeks, and then to months. Since
Josh was a big San Francisco Giants fan,
Euphrat and the staff decorated his room
with Giants pendants and watched the
playoffs with him when the Giants made it to
the World Series in 2002. Euphrat had formed
a close bond with Josh's parents and shared
the idea of the Little Wishes program with
"We all came to the conclusion, when he
passed away, that we would make donations in
Josh's memory to Little Wishes," said
Euphrat. "The first check came in the mail,
and it was for $25. I just happened to have
this really great group of talented friends.
One was a grant writer, and my next-door
neighbor was a high-powered person in
finance at City Corp. We formed a board and
we got a 501(c)(3)."
Recently, Euphrat and her team introduced
the Little Wishes program to Sacred Heart
Children's Hospital in Spokane, Wash., and
Sutter Hospital in Sacramento, where Millie
the Little Wishes dog, a Labrador retriever,
brings the gifts to young patients.
"I would love to be able to see the
program expand in the Bay Area and beyond,"
said Euphrat. "When you give a child
something, there's a certain magic that you
see happening. They become happy, and then
the parents really appreciate it and they
become happy, and then it reverberates out
to the staff. Sometimes you leave work
feeling like, 'What more can I do for that
'Appropriate and pretty'
Seven-month-old Kholwani Sibanda, who has
leukemia, has been in the pediatric unit at
CPMC since January. His father, Sanelle
Sibanda, said Little Wishes has been a great
comfort to his son by providing toys that
seem to distract him from his pain.
"Laura is great nurse who works hard to
make sick children at CPMC feel important
and loved," said Sibanda. "The presents she
gives are very appropriate and pretty. We
hope she continues providing this needed
service to sick children."
For information, visit
Each week, The Chronicle features a Bay
Area resident who has won a Jefferson
Award for making a difference in his or
her community. The awards are
administered by the American Institute
for Public Service, a national
foundation that honors community
service. Bay Area residents profiled in
The Chronicle are also featured on CBS
5-TV and KCBS-AM, which are Jefferson
Award media partners, along with The
E-mail Shelah Moody at