Call it the laugh that went around the world. Well, almost, anyway.
As word spread to the friends and relatives of Kapri Geernaert, a Larkfield 5-year-old who was diagnosed with cancer June 3, everybody was looking for a way to help, especially with the rapidly mounting medical bills.
Nobody’s quite sure who started it, but it may have been Mike Graves who saw a recent Internet craze called the ice bucket challenge.
It’s a simple idea: Take a video of yourself getting a bucket of ice water poured over your head and then call out someone else to do it. It’s been getting a lot of play lately, making its way through the world of professional golfers and other celebrities. Earlier this week, NBC Today Show co-host Matt Lauer did the challenge on national TV.
Many have used the challenge to raise money for charities or causes, calling out someone else to pour ice water over their head and donate a small sum of money, or pay a larger amount and skip the ice water. In Kapri’s case, those taking the challenge are asked to pay $10 and call out other people. Those who dodge the icy water pay $100.
When Graves did the challenge, one of the people he called out was Ashley Kahn, a good friend of Kapri’s mother, Rebecca Geernaert. Kahn happened to be heading to Memphis, Tenn., to visit Rebecca and Kapri at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, where the girl was being treated.
The bubbly 5-year-old already had been through surgery at UC San Francisco’s Benioff Children’s Hospital to remove a malignant tumor from her brain, a first course of what is expected to be months of radiation and chemotherapy treatments and was just in the beginning stages of physical therapy to help regain motor movements lost from the surgery.
“She’s a happy kid and, honestly, she’s been taking this whole thing really well,” Rebecca Geernaert said. “But when we would get to the hospital, she would go very quiet. I mean, it’s more than any 5-year-old should have to face.”
But when Kahn decided to take the challenge in the bathroom of the Geernaerts’ apartment near St. Jude’s, Kapri was there to see it and even got to call out a challenge.
But the best part, her mother said, was when Kapri started laughing at the just-soaked Kahn.
“You can hear it on the video,” Geernaert said. “This squeaky, squeally laugh. People just responded to it.”
They responded in a major way.
Geernaert has lost track of how many videos she’s seen but estimates there are more than 500. People have taken the challenge as far away as Jamaica and Costa Rica. A college provost did it in Kansas.
Kahn posted the video to Facebook, offering the challenge to five people.
The Geernaerts, who have two other girls, learned of Kapri’s cancer in early June, when their otherwise healthy girl was showing signs of unusual fatigue. Then on June 3, her mother sensed something was seriously wrong and rushed her to Sutter Medical Center’s emergency room in Santa Rosa. Doctors found a tumor in the back of her brain, and she was flown that day by helicopter to UCSF. After the surgery, the family learned the devastating news — the tumor was malignant.