"York Neighbors: Keeping kids connected"
Grahamtastic Connection was featured in this
Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram article:
Leslie Morissette lends laptops to sick children who need a
By NOEL K. GALLAGHER Staff Writer
December 27, 2007
Helping others is just one of the ways Leslie
Morissette keeps the memory of her son, Graham, close. There's his
artwork on his walls, his dog at her feet, and the smiles of
children who get free laptops to use while they are hospitalized.
Morissette operates a lending library of laptops
through "Grahamtastic Connection," a nonprofit she created in her
"It just feels right to do this," Morissette said.
"It's a way to change my tragedy into something positive."
Morissette said the idea of providing computers to
sick children came to her a few months after Graham died. In 1987,
the Internet wasn't ubiquitous, and she had difficulty getting
online to look up medical information.
"Computers were used in hospitals, they weren't
accessible (by patients,)" she said. "I always remember that. When I
would go home, I would immediately get online."
In the months that followed Graham's death, she
stayed in touch with his nurses and doctors. As she struggled with
her grief, she came up with the idea of helping other sick children
by providing temporary laptops.
"It was a seed in my head, and in my grief, I had
an epiphany one day when I was e-mailing one of the (Graham's)
doctors. He thought it was a great idea, and I started giving
critically ill kids computers," Morissette said. After being
interviewed on a local radio station, her first donated laptop
"It was amazing," she said. Today, she accepts
newer laptops and has them refurbished by teenagers at a local
"I showed (the students) the Web site, and that
gave them some real incentive," said Rob Jaime, who teaches computer
repair at Westbrook Regional Vocational School High School. "They
felt really good about it."
So far, she's provided laptops to more than 120
children at 22 facilities in about 16 states, including Florida, New
York and California.
Requests must be made by someone on the child's
medical team, and she coordinates with hospital social workers, she
Since the program operates like a lending library,
Morissette is often shipping computers here and there, or dropping
them off in person to critically ill children in the area. Some
hospitals have made so many requests -- St. Jude Children's Research
Hospital in Tennessee, for example -- that she just keeps several
laptops in rotation there.
Morissette, married with two adult daughters, is
low-key about her work, to the point of not telling the children and
families she meets in hospitals that she's the person behind the
"I'll go up to the hospital floor and drop off
laptops, but I don't talk about my son while I'm there," she said.
"They say, 'You are so lucky to volunteer for this program,' and I
just smile and agree. It's not a place for me to be bringing bad
Morissette admits it can be hard sometimes. For
every smile she gets looking at one of Graham's pictures -- still
pinned on the walls of her home -- there are tough moments with the
children she meets. About one in 10 die, she said.
"I just try to remember that I'm helping and try
to stay above water," she said.
"I plan on doing this as long as the need is
Staff Writer Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at
282-8226 or at: