By Crystal Kouri
Our son P.J. was born with Treacher Collins. The birth was a surprise and an opportunity to exercise compassion for our son and other children born with the same syndrome.
My son, PJ, faced many challenges in a short time. He will continue to need more surgeries and procedures throughout his life. He spent the first nine weeks of his life in the NICU. He had a mandibular distraction and a G-Tube placed before he was allowed to come home. He has three more major surgeries scheduled this year. They include, one to repair his cleft palate, one to remove the hardware in his jaw, and one to remove parts of his skull to treat his recent Craniostenosis diagnosis. PJ also needs a Bone Anchored Hearing Aid, or BAHA, which is not covered by insurance.
LIttle did I know that P.J.’s medically-necessary hearing aid would lead to an opportunity to help others, too.
While posting about his hearing device on Instagram (a platform that I use to communicate with other TCS moms while spreading a bit of kindness), Nathalie Gaulthier, my dear friend and owner of Le Petit Cirque, suggested that I do a “Go Fund Me” page to raise the money for his BAHA. I was reluctant about the idea, so she suggested doing a Le Petit Cirque show to raise the money. I found that idea more acceptable, because we would not only be raising money for P.J.’s medical expenses, but we would also have the opportunity to raise awareness.
I felt that the Le Petit fundraiser had a greater purpose than just raising money for the hearing aid. Circus performers were often ridiculed and called “freaks” as they were part of a spectacle called the “freak show.” Today, they are embraced and admired for their talents and differences. The cirque show and the history of its performers aligns perfectly with the message of acceptance we strive to portray through P.J.’s experience.
After agreeing to Nathalie’s idea for a charitable event, I began planning two shows that would be impactful and successful. Since I have been in the entertainment industry for 20 years, I decided to do my best to use my contacts to grow the show, and grow we did. Nathalie and I have been working around the clock. We want to not only put on a great show, but, also, to drive home the Choose Kind message focused on acceptance and positivity to others. We are so honored that Jono Lancaster, motivational speaker and founder of the Love Me, Love My Face Foundation, will be flying in to speak at the event. Erica Mossholder, Executive Director of Children’s Craniofacial Association (CCA), will speak about her organization and the support they provide to individuals living with craniofacial conditions. Everyone can look forward to a number of celebrity attendees that committed to being there at the event on Sunday, April 22nd, including cast members from the box office, hit movie, “Wonder.”
Considering the Le Petit Cirque show’s success and recognizing the importance of giving back, I decided to donate a percentage of the proceeds to CCA and the Love me, Love My Face Foundation. As a thank you to Nathalie, my handy husband, and P.J.'s father, also built new wooden platforms for Le Petit Cirque’s theatre chairs to create stadium seating for their studio where the event will take place and the young circus performers practice.
Organizing this event has been nothing short of a whirlwind of selflessness, people helping other people, and working together to create something beautiful and heartfelt. It has been a wonderful experience and I will be so proud to one day tell my son that he was the inspiration behind this magical show.
Two Le Petit Cirque Charity shows will take place on Sunday, April 22nd, 2018 at 2PM and 6PM in Inglewood, CA. The 2:00PM performance is sold out, but tickets remain available for the 6:00PM show. If you are in the Southern California area you can purchase tickets at this Eventbrite page.