"Sanford woman keeps her son's memory
alive with the Grahamtastic Connection organization"
Grahamtastic Connection was featured in this
Sanford-Springvale Register article:
Sanford woman keeps her son's memory alive with the
Grahamtastic Connection organization
by Colleen Marshall, Register Editor
Leslie Morissette's golden retriever slowly rises
from a curled position near her desk, tag wagging and eyes shining
as he greets a visitor. After successfully securing a proper welcome
-- thanks to a full back petting and scratching behind both ears --
he ambles back to his spot on the floor to watch Morissette as she
begins to discuss her son, the dog's first owner.
Morissette's eyes are similar to her best friend,
bright when she discusses her youngest born, but soon turning glassy
as the conversation turns to how his life was cut short. It was 1997
when Graham had begged for a dog as a Christmas gift -- aptly naming
it "Finally" -- when the puppy finally arrived.
Four days later, on Christmas Eve, Graham lost his
battle with leukemia. He was 8 years old.
Nearly a decade later, Morissette is keeping her
son's memory alive by helping other kids in similar situations. With
Finally as her constant companion, the Sanford resident works to
ensure kids with serious illnesses have a connection to the world
outside their hospital walls -- thanks to a computer and Internet
"We donate computers to seriously ill children,"
Morissette said. "We've given to kids with cystic fibrosis, multiple
sclerosis, cerebral palsy -- we also had an AIDS patient from Africa
in a New York City hospital. Having an illness ends up with a lot of
hospital stays which leaves you isolated from friends and family. We
hope to be able to help any child who wants technology -- we want to
be able to say yes to these kids."
Since its establishment, Morissette's non-profit
organization Grahamtastic Connection has donated 85 computers to
children in 15 states. The program works like a lending library with
Morissette teaming with social workers and hospital officials to
find children who could benefit from a computer.
Although the group, which is administered by a
five-member board of directors, does not look at financial ability,
the children must be 18 years or younger. Morissette said she works
closely with Sanford, Kennebunk and Massabessic high school students
taking computer technology classes, who have helped her restore and
improve used donated computers.
"They work to refurbish the computers," she said.
"I link up with the high school students. I see a valuable lesson in
it. I see these children learning compassion as well as technology.
These aren't high school kids that need community service hours.
They want to work and I see nothing better than teaching children a
lesson like that."
Morissette said the idea for the organization grew
from her own experiences in dealing with Graham's hospital stays.
She relied on the Internet at Maine Medical Center to garner
as much information as she could about the disease, his treatments
and possible cancer trials. Graham also benefited from the computer
by keeping in touch with his friends.
"He was an extraordinary child," she said. "He
made friends with everyone, adults, nurses and the doctors. They
would all email him, which was really great."
Morissette said she relies on the kindness of the
community in giving laptops, not more than three years old, as well
as Internet service or wireless cards.
"I truly believe there is divine intervention in
this," she said. "There have been many cases where I've needed
something and then suddenly comes the next day. One time I had a
request for a laptop and didn't have one available. Literally the
next day, I had a donation and was able to deliver it. Another time
I was $200 short because I needed to buy two modems. Then I got a
$200 check from someone who sent a card for Graham's birthday. I
guess I just feel I'm on the right path because things always fall
into place. I'm truly blessed."
Although volunteers and board members often travel
to the hospital to drop off computers, Morissette said she also
makes a point to visit the children who are benefiting from her
organization, even if that means it brings back memories of the 18
months she spent in the hospital with Graham.
"Now it's my most favorite part of the job," she
said. "I meet with the kids and we always just keep it light. The
families don't need to hear about me, because it's not a happy
story. It's not about my issues. I choose my words carefully because
it can be upsetting to them."
Sitting at her desk at Marian Heath, where she
serves as art director, with Finally at her feet, she said the
Grahamtastic Connection is simply one small thing to help families
get through a difficult time in dealing with a child's illness.
"Right now, I feel like a good fairy," Morissette
said. "How can I help but not do this program -- I get more rewards
than I give. We're not working towards a cure. What we are offering
is a better quality of life for them."
Colleen Marshall is a Sanford-Springvale
This article appeared in the Sanford-Springvale Register on