Moms on a MISSION: Chara McLaughen, Promoter

This Mother’s Day, HA would like to extend its deepest gratitude to all of the mothers making a difference each and every day to move the Hydrocephalus Association one step closer to a cure. For the seven days around Mother’s Day, we are profiling a few members that have gone above and far beyond to further our reach.  Please join us in thanking these amazing (S)HEroes in our community!

Chara McLaughen – The Promoter

Chara McLaughen, Hydrocephalus Association Chattanooga WALK Chair, with daughterWhen the going gets tough, moms on a mission get going, sharing their journey publicly and raising critical awareness about the challenges of hydrocephalus. Chara McLaughen’s daughter, Ema, was born with hydrocephalus and last year underwent several back to back brain surgeries – a shunt revision, a shunt infection and the placement of a new shunt. She is 5 years old and has already endured 9 brain surgeries, and countless other procedures. Sitting by her daughter’s bedside during that time, Chara, one of our WALK chairs from Chattanooga, Tennessee, shared her feelings about the experience and an update on her daughter Ema’s progress on her CaringBridge blog and through Twitter and Facebook. She tagged Darby Schumacher, then a contestant in the Miss Tennessee Scholarship Pageant (the Tennessee component of the Miss America pageant competition) and the then reigning 2013 Miss Tennessee Shelby Claire Thompson. Both ladies were part of a group of volunteers who helped out at the 2013 Chattanooga WALK. What happened next was remarkable. Darby and Shelby retweeted Chara’s message, and invited Ema to attend the opening night ceremony of the 2014 Miss Tennessee Pageant in Jackson, Tennessee. At the end of the evening after the ceremony had ended, Ema, her head still newly shaved from her surgeries, was invited up on stage to twirl around, and Shelby put one of Darby’s sparkling crowns on Ema’s head. The media from all across the state – and all of the contestants – loved the experience, and got an education about the challenges of living with hydrocephalus. Darby, Shelby, and the then newly crowned 2014 Miss Tennessee, Hayley Lewis, kept the story alive by tweeting and posting to their Facebook pages.

A beautiful friendship formed between Hayley, Chara, and Ema, and over the course of the year Chara has taken the opportunities presented to her and continued to raise critical awareness across Tennessee, with Hayley’s enthusiasm and support. Chara hosted an educational exhibit at the annual KidzExpo where Hayley graciously posed in a fun photo booth with the children in attendance. (Watch the video.) Chara also organized a Hydrocephalus Awareness Family Fun Night at the Chattanooga Lookouts minor league baseball game, where members of the Chattanooga hydrocephalus community threw out the first pitch and Hayley sang the national anthem. (Watch the interview.) And little Ema was crowned an honorary Iris Princess at the recent Miss Tennessee Outstanding Teen pageant where Hayley serenaded Ema on stage and Chara and Ema video blogged their entire journey and shared it through Twitter. All of this activity grabbed the eye of Governor Bill Haslam, who invited Chara, Ema, and Hayley to the State Capitol for a personal meet and greet with him and First Lady Chrissy Haslam. These opportunities have opened many doors to get the word out about hydrocephalus and the threesome has been featured on local news stations across Tennessee and continues to receive interest from the media. Thank you, Chara, for your energy and for sharing your story through so many different avenues to educate the public about hydrocephalus and elevate the entire Chattanooga hydrocephalus community.

Follow Chara and the many adventures still to come! @HAWALK_CHATT