When their 21-year-old daughter Cherese died nearly two years ago, Chris and Larry Laulhere knew immediately they had to fulfill her dreams of helping others.
What resulted was the Cherese Mari Laulhere Foundation, to help less fortunate children. The first donation from the foundation will be made in May.
Cherese, a Wilson High School graduate and University of California, Los Angeles, student, was suddenly killed March 27, 1996, while enrolled in the Semester at Sea program. She and a group of students had paid for flight to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal at dusk. But instead of flying, the students were put on a bus that careened off the road in the middle of the night.
The Laulheres, along with the parents of three other girls who also died, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the University of Pittsburgh, which sponsors the program. Chris Laulhere said if they win the case --or settle out of court -- the money would be put into the foundation. She added that the case is still a couple of years away from trial.
Laulhere said it has been difficult for her and her family to decide what organization should receive the first donation. The difficulty is not only because Cherese had so many interests, but because the donation symbolizes that Cherese is really gone, Laulhere said.
"Even now, mentally I'm still dragging my feet because it's another step in accepting her death," Laulhere said. "I hope it turns out to be a big help for us. I know it will help others. It's a matter of what should we donate and to whom. There are several areas where I know she would have wanted to make a difference."
Laulhere said it had been important to Cherese to be an organ donor. That wish was not possible, so the Laulheres know they want to help sick children get the transplants they need. But that is just one area they are considering for the first donation.
The Laulheres are also talking with Long Beach Memorial Miller Children's Hospital, where Cherese was born and volunteered as a teen-ager, about possible contributions. Scholarships for Wilson students and donations to orphanages and missions, are being considered, as well.
"I want the world to know her," Laulhere said, "what she could have accomplished, and what she will accomplish through her foundation."