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Charlotte Jennie “CJ” Reynolds was a girlie girl. She liked dresses, princesses and all things pink and purple. And on Feb. 9, she’ll get her own grand ball.
That’s when the Thumbs Up Ball returns for its third year. Organized by the Ashland-based CJ’s Thumbs Up Foundation, the event helps raise funds to assist families of children battling terminal or chronic diseases.
Roger and Rachel Reynolds launched the non-profit on Jan. 6, 2010, the day before their daughter Charlotte passed away from a brain tumor at the age of 4 1/2, with hopes that they will be able to help families going through the same ordeal.
“When [CJ] was first sick, obviously we were incredibly overwhelmed by the entire experience, but the fortunate thing was the community really rallied behind us,” Rachel said.
The outpouring came from friends, people in the Reynoldses’ church and sometimes strangers who heard about their story and wanted to help. It was that experience that the Reynoldses wanted to keep going through the Foundation.
“We felt very supported and we also saw families that didn’t quite get that same support while they were in the hospital and going through this situation,” Rachel said.
Roger said that the process of helping other families out has proven to be therapeutic for him. In addition to his work with the Foundation, he serves meals to families each Thursday on the seventh-floor pediatric wing of the Children’s Hospital. For him, it’s another way to cope with loss.
“It’s kind of weird because that’s where we spent a lot of time. A lot of folks wouldn’t be able to go up to that place,” he said. “There’s a lot of ghosts up there.”
Rachel said it’s been rewarding to turn their personal tragedy into something positive for other families.
“It’s good to take something that really broke your heart and turn it into something good,” she said.
She added that the Foundation, and the Ball, in particular, helps keep CJ’s memory alive.
“The Thumbs Up Ball is really about the spirit of who she was. She was a little girlie girl who loved princesses and loved pink and purple, everything that a lot of typical girls love,” Rachel said. “I think that’s one reason why this is really becoming one of our signature events.”
The Ball began as a “Father-Daughter” dance organized by the Mechanicsville Moms group. Last year, approximately 150 people attended, according to Roger. This year, organizers hope the event will sell out of its 200 tickets.
This year’s family-friendly event will feature a live “Prince and Princess” and Radio Disney for the kids. There will also be a silent auction and raffle and family portraits, the proceeds of which go towards the Foundation’s mission.
Music will be provided by the band “Triple Scoop,” which has unique ties to the Reynolds family. Alfred Walker, band member and godfather to Charlotte, said his family and the Reynoldses have long been connected musically. Rachel and Walker’s wife Loretta met as music therapists, and both couples sang in a church choir together. Walker also said that music factored into holiday celebrations between the two families, so a musical tribute felt appropriate.
“It feels great and also fitting to be able to bring music in support of a caring effort like the Thumbs Up Ball,” Walker said. “Of course I’d be there in heartbeat, and my band members have been really gracious in coming on board. It will be a fun afternoon, and I’ll take a moment to remember Charlotte dancing and singing in my living room.”
The Ball will be held Saturday, Feb. 9 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. at Shady Grove United Methodist Church, located at 4825 Pouncey Tract Road, Glen Allen. Tickets are available at the door or in advance by visiting the foundation’s website.