A year after her daughter Jessie passed away, Linda Falcone stood on a balcony of a hotel in Costa Rica, longing for her child. Just give me a sign. A butterfly, something, she remembers thinking.
The next day while sitting at breakfast with her husband Frank, and friends, Linda witnessed the unbelievable.
“This white butterfly lies right on my placemat,” Linda recalls. “I told everyone at the table what I was thinking about the night before. I picked up the butterfly and it stayed with me for hours.”
When they left Costa Rica, the butterfly stayed, but Frank and Linda knew their daughter was with them. She had once drawn a beautiful butterfly as a child, which Linda has held onto all these years. Today, Jessie’s spirit and passion for the arts lives on through the many charitable projects that Frank and Linda have invested their time and dedication as part of The Jessica Falcone Memorial Foundation.
Most recently, the couple made a generous gift to the new art therapy program at the Children’s Regional Hospital at Cooper, where Jessie was treated when she was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia at the age of 13. Their support will stock an art cart, named Jessie’s Art Cart, filled with supplies for Art Therapist Elizabeth King, to use with pediatric patients as they cope with their own diagnoses and hospital stays.
“With a mobile art studio, the Art Cart, an art therapist is able to treat patients at their bedside,” King said. “The Art Cart will make creativity and art therapy accessible for all of our pediatric patients and their families in order to improve their hospital experience and overall wellbeing.”
Frank and Linda are excited to give back to a program that will make a big impact in the lives of so many children.
“This whole concept of art therapy is so important,” Frank said. “It gives children a sense of hope and value.”
When Jessie was diagnosed with cancer, the Falcone’s, who lived in Cinnaminson, turned to Cooper because of its top-notch reputation. They remember the personal care Jessie received from the many doctors and nurses at Cooper, including Dr. Mickey Donaldson, who specialized in hematology and childhood cancer.
As she courageously battled cancer the next 13 years of her life, Jessie pursued her passion. She enrolled at Villanova University where she studied the arts and graduated in 1998. Sadly, Jessie passed away in 2002. She was 26.
“Jessie loved art. Drawing with pencil was her favorite medium. She was able to take many art classes at Villanova but her dream was to go to art school,” said Linda, adding that Jessie would often draw roses and give the drawings away as gifts. “All her teenage years were spent in hospitals. If there was an art program like this in place, Jessie could have developed her art skills even more.”
Just as the butterfly in Costa Rica reassured the Falcone’s of Jessie’s presence, the Falcone’s hope when Jessie’s Art Cart enters the room, filled with art supplies, young patients will feel comforted when they can express their thoughts and concerns through art.
“We are thrilled to be able to help the patients at the Children’s Regional Hospital at Cooper, and at the same time, keeping Jessie’s spirit and love of art alive. Because as Jessie said, ‘It all comes down to this. Do for others.’ ”
To support the Art Therapy program at the Children’s Regional Hospital at Cooper, visit foundation.cooperhealth.org/give-now and designate your gift to Art Therapy.