Annual Letter 2018

To the Cheerful Helpers Community,
To walk through the doors of Cheerful Helpers is to arrive home. Twenty-two years ago, I brought my daughter through these doors. I was scared, defensive and overwhelmed. I was a young and stubborn mother who liked to be in charge,but did not know how to best help my child. The “Ellens” were well-versed in the language of my daughter, but unless I was willing to change and grow too, all efforts would be lost in the translation.
I have read beautiful testimonials from alumni parents that tell the tales of their children and how Cheerful Helpers gave them the life skills that they needed to prevail. Certainly the same is true with my daughter, Kaitlyn, and it is nothing short of a miracle as I reflect back. However, the journey of our parent community is also highly transformative and allows us to become lifelong learners, along with our children.
In order for the brilliant work of the Cheerful Helpers staff to take hold, the entire family must commit to the process. This means abandoning much of the construct that we arrive with and allowing ourselves to be led. It means finding humility and redefining our roles. For me, the moment that changed me came early on in my daughter’s time at Cheerful Helpers. I was a full-time working mom, who thought that perhaps if I drop my daughter off at school in the morning and then retrieve her later in the day, that I had done my part. I did not properly grasp that this was to be a fully comprehensive family program. Ellen Reinstein sensed my flightiness and asked the question that I still hear today, “Are you in or are you out?” 
The process of choosing to be “in” has changed my life, my daughter’s life, and that of the culture of our family. Our family learned to fully immerse ourselves in a process that we knew little about, and to have faith in our child's ability to learn an entirely new language. As Ellen Pearlman wisely instructed us, we were to join her in the tremendous work of building personhood and connection. What a journey! What a beautiful, complicated, and terrifying journey!
My daughter, Kaitlyn, is twenty-five years old today. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Brandeis University in 2016 and now works at a top tier law firm in Los Angeles. She hopes to continue on to law school in the next few years. More importantly, she loves life and has deeply rooted friendships. She has a strong sense of community and justice and gives fully of herself. I could scream from the rooftops with pride, and I never lose sight of exactly how and where she turned that critical corner in her life.
Cheerful Helpers is a place like no other. It breathes life into being for our children and it asks us all to slow down, pay attention, and offer our best selves to our families. 
It is with heartfelt sincerity and gratitude that I ask you to join me in donating to Cheerful Helpers this holiday season. For the many who already donate, we humbly ask that you consider increasing that amount to help us with our endowment campaign. This effort has been generously seeded by the Stockel Family in honor of Ellen and Ellen.
We are a small group and a tight community. As always, we rely on each other to know the value of this work. Your generous donations truly change the lives of those who come through that same front door that we did, now so many years ago. I will end by remarking that I read this drafted letter to my daughter, in an attempt to ask for her input. She thought to remind me that my own past donations to Cheerful Helpers have brought me both a sense of connection and meaning. "People like to give when they can truly feel the impact of their gift," Kaitlyn shared. Needless to say, a gift to Cheerful Helpers comes with this assurance
Have a meaningful and safe holiday season.
Anita Sever 
Alumni Parent 1999


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