While working as an associate producer on the film “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” Paula DuPré Pesman received a phone call from an organization that grants wishes to critically ill kids. The child’s wish? To see the movie about the boy wizard before she died.
Presman’s initial reaction was that it was impossible. But in part because her own husband, Curt, was struggling with colon cancer at the time, she was determined to make it happen.
“We figured out a way to do a rough cut,” Pesman tells the Denver Post. “We got a screening room in San Francisco. We did a screening for this little girl, Gillian. Her picture hangs over my desk…She shot me out of a cannon, basically. It became my reason to go to work.”
After granting that wish, Pesman couldn’t stop there. She continued to make the dreams of sick kids come true with visits to the Harry Potter film set and screenings. Once, she mentioned to a sick child’s father that he must have a lot of friends helping him out. “He said, ‘Are you kidding?'” Pesman recalls. “We’re living a parent’s worst nightmare. People don’t know what to say or do, so they don’t do anything.”
So Pesman made helping such kids and their families her full-time mission. “I was walking away from something I loved. I loved working on films. I loved supporting the team. And I worked 16 years for the nicest company. You don’t walk away from a perfect job.”
But Pesman did, leaving the film industry to start There With Care out of her home in Boulder, Colo. The nonprofit takes care of every conceivable need that families of critically-ill children struggle with.
Volunteers make sure these families’ refrigerators are stocked and that they don’t run out of toilet paper. They deep-clean homes for kids coming home from the hospital with weakened immune systems, and they drive families to doctors’ appointments so the parents can provide comfort during the ride. Most importantly, the volunteers listen at a time when friends can turn away out of fear and shock about the situation.
Pesman runs the nonprofit full time — but she hasn’t completely stayed away from movie-making. She’s worked with Colorado filmmakers on such projects as “The Cove,” the 2009 Oscar nominee for best feature documentary, and last year’s Emmy-winning “Chasing Ice.”
“I was a control freak as a producer,” Pesman says. “I had to get everything done, everything perfect. I don’t do that anymore. I think Curt being sick changed all of that for me. I didn’t have a choice anymore. I saw how quickly things could change and be taken from you. That’s probably why I love documentary so much. You think you’re making this movie and you’re not. You’re making this one.”