Column: Giving backTwo weeks after she expressed her admiration for the television show "The Closer," Andrea got a clearer picture about some of the good deeds done by its stars.
By: Andrea Langworthy, Rosemount Town Pages
Two weeks ago I wrote a column about the impending retirement of my favorite television show, “The Closer.” A woman saw the column online and contacted me about a fundraiser she started for fans of the show.
Sunshine Kids Foundation is a charity close to the hearts of many members of “The Closer” family. Fans of the TNT series who would like to make a donation will be saying “Thank Yew” for seven sensational seasons. (“Thank Yew,” said in a sing-song syrupy Southern drawl, is a favorite expression of the show’s Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson.)
Founded by Rhoda Tomasco in 1982, the foundation’s mission is to improve the quality of life for children with cancer “by providing them with exciting, positive group activities, so they may once again do what kids are supposed to do . . . have fun and celebrate life.” This includes local and national events for thousands of young cancer patients from hospitals across North America.
Last week, I spoke with G.W. Bailey (Lieutenant Provenza on the program). Eight years ago, his yellow sunshine lapel pin (the foundation’s logo) caught his co-workers’ attention and, ever since, the involvement of those connected with the show “has been tremendous.”
Bailey was inspired to help the organization after his late goddaughter asked him to meet her at an event in Colorado. “I had never seen so many kids with cancer in one place,” says Bailey, who needed a few minutes to quell his emotions.
The first 15 years of his volunteer work focused on expanding the organization. He has served as executive director since 2001.
Bailey’s enthusiasm for Sunshine Kids was all it took for Michael Paul Chan (Lieutenant Tao) to get onboard. Chan grew up in northern California and started surfing at 14. His first volunteer experience was with the California Fun Time Adventure, a week of activities that includes a visit to “The Closer” set and a day at the beach.
Chan, the show’s computer wizard, shared via Facebook, “I was taking kids who had never been in the ocean before and putting them on boogie boards. The great thing about boogie boards, he added, is that (with a little push) the kids can feel the sensation of riding a wave instantly.”
Chan remembers one boy asking if the ocean’s salt water would kill him. And a little girl who had been pounded by a wave and washed up on the beach who turned around and said, “Again, please!”
Chan has carried amputees in and out of the water and fashioned a handle to a board “so a kid with one arm could hold on better.” He says, “We didn’t get out of the water (until) the sun went down.”
Tony Denison (Lieutenant Flynn) says as Bailey’s involvement with Sunshine Kids became obvious, the idea of personal involvement, of giving more than money to charity, appealed to him.
During a national event in New Orleans, Denison celebrated Mardi Gras with the Sunshine Kids. He says it was “a great time, just a ball.” It’s a trip he won’t forget because of one boy who hadn’t looked sick. “A life of the party kind of kid,” says Denison, who thought the teenager may have been in remission.
Less than two months later, Denison asked Bailey about the boy. “He’s gone,” Bailey answered. Denison asked what he meant and Bailey said the boy’s cancer had “come back super strong.” He had passed away. “I started crying,” says Denison.
“It didn’t seem fair to me that he could look and act so healthy and then be gone. Sometimes, it really is their last trip and if there is going to be a happy last memory, it’s great to be part of it,” he says.
Forty-seven kids a day are diagnosed with cancer, according to Bailey. “Cancer has no restrictions,” he says. “It attacks at will — kids from every geographic region, every economic level, every race. We are very good at what we do, bringing smiles to kids with cancer. We reach out to as many as we can but Sunshine Kids can only reach about one percent of them.”
To learn more about the Sunshine Kids Foundation, visit www.sunshinekids.org. To send a thank yew to “The Closer,” click on “Donate Now” or call 1-800 594-5756. Make sure to mention you are honoring the show.