There’s an old adage that says the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and in the case of acclaimed singer/songwriter/artist Brooke Josephson, that sentiment couldn’t be more true. Josephson’s creative gene has been passed down to her daughter, Shira, in a uniquely wonderful way.
Shira Josephson, a book lover and Junior Ambassador at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, noticed that many of the hospital’s patients were so ill that they didn’t have access to the hospital’s first-floor story corner. So the resilient eight-year-old did what any forward-thinking artist would do — she created one of her own.
Last summer, Shira and her mother started Shira’s Story Corner, a video series where the young girl reads some of her favorite books that are later shared with patients. Shira’s weekly series was an insant success; bringing comfort and virtual companionship to many of the non-profit hospital’s isolated patients.
The Junior Ambassadors are the hospital’s youth fundraising group, and following a recent trip to New York City where she befriended another girl, Shira wrote and illustrated her own book, “The Girl On The Subway,” to help raise funds for the hospital. To date, Shira has raised more than $13,000 from book sales and other fundraising efforts.
On Saturday, October 6th, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles will hold its annual Junior Ambassador Action Day, where every donation made will be matched dollar for dollar. This year, The Josephson Family and Shira’s Story Corner are the matching donors. In addition to other fundraising activities planned for the day, Shira will be selling copies of “The Girl On The Subway” as well as her brand new book, “The Fickle Cat Called Pickles,” with all proceeds benefiting CHLA.
As for Shira’s mother, Brooke Josephson, the songstress will be back in New York City on September 21st for a performance at Prohibition. The show will be in support of her amazing new EP, “Sexy N’ Domesticated’. She’ll follow it up with a trip to Amsterdam to shoot the video for a remix of her song, “Mr. Fix It”, with DJ Rocky G.
I recently spoke with Brooke Josephson about Shira’s cause and much more in this exclusive new interview.
How did your family become involved with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles?
A few of Shira’s classmates in pre-school had been patients at the hospital and were blown away by the work they had done for them and their families. Then, two weeks before Shira graduated from pre-school, she fell and broke her arm pretty badly. It required her going under anesthesia for surgery and having to wear three different casts. The time she was away from us was very brief but it left such an impact on her. Then she started thinking about her friends who had been born with heart defects and needed to have surgery every few years. That’s when we started donating and getting involved.
When did Shira’s love of reading originate?
I’ve always loved books. Even when I growing up, I’d always volunteer in our school library re-shelving books while everyone else was at recess. When Shira was a baby, I’d read to her every night. Then, once she started reading on her own, it became a passion for her as well.
How did she become involved the Junior Ambassador program and what inspired Shira’s Story Corner?
When Shira was going into first grade, we started looking into other ways of getting involved instead of just writing a check. That’s when we found out about the Junior Ambassador program, and Shira loved it right away. The program is a mixture of kids from the community as well as current patients. Shira was able to work alongside kids her own age right up to high school seniors. It was during her second training session, when they were doing a tour of the hospital, that they came to the end of the hall, where doors led to floors where the kids were too sick to have visitors.
Afterwards, Shira seemed sad, so I asked her what was wrong. She explained to me that the tour had ended because they couldn’t go past a certain point. Then she lit up and came up with an idea. There was a story corner on the first floor of the hospital; and even though the sick kids couldn’t go there, what if she could make her own story corner and bring it to them? One where she could read books and I could make videos for them to watch. It took off from there!
What inspired Shira to write her own book, “The Girl On The Subway”?
Part of being a Junior Ambassador is creating your own fundraisers, and it was at one of the brainstorming sessions that Shira decided to make her own book. Part of that came from a story she’d read called “The Chocolate Bar” that a little boy had written for his friend who had a rare disease. They had sold the book to raise money for his friend’s treatment. Since we had recently taken a trip to New York, Shira wanted to write a book about a girl her age she met on the subway. To date, she’s raised more than $13,000 between her book and other fundraising. Even other kids in her elementary school have joined the Junior Ambassador program after seeing the work she’s done. It’s been exciting to watch the ripple effect.
What can you tell me about her new book, “The Fickle Cat Called Pickles?”
She actually came up with the idea when she was being interviewed about “The Girl On The Subway” for the hospital. She loves to eat pickles and always wanted to have a cat, but because of allergies, we can only have dogs. One of the cool things was when she was drawing the characters. She wanted the middle part of their bodies to be in the shape of a pickle and the cat’s head to have a heart-shaped face.
Let’s talk about this year’s Children’s Hospital of L.A. Junior Ambassador Action Day.
It’s one day set aside where every dollar donated to the hospital is matched. This year on Action Day, Saturday, October 6th, you can purchase copies of Shira’s books, or you can also go to the CHLA website to make a donation.
Is there a message you’d like people to take away from Shira’s work?
I’m blown away by kids and their courage, even with Shira’s book, “The Girl On The Subway”. She literally just met the girl, and when the adults saw how well they were interacting they asked her how long the two of them had been friends. Shira told them, “We just met.” Then everyone started asking each other why we can’t do this as adults. It was humbling and inspiring. We all need the ability to look each other in the eye and make the world a better place.