Jules Laurita-Smith

$125,939 of $250,000 goal

Raised by 1,088 people in 21 months
Prior to October 21, 2017, Jules was enjoying the happiest time in her life - on track to graduate high school a semester early (still did), enjoying a budding career as a singer/songwriter and singing and playing bass in a band (still is), working as a barista (sadly, not), accepted to college for fall of 2018, and generally loving life and being a healthy, positive, blossoming, joyful 17, now 18 year old.

A massive series of seizures landed her in the ER, and a suspicious MRI prompted transport to Children’s Hospital in Denver. Many more tests, and a subsequent biopsy revealed a diagnosis of a cancerous glioma brain tumor, mostly in her right frontal lobe. At first deemed inoperable, many second opinions, sent out across the country and even to Europe, suggested otherwise. After a trip to NYC to meet with a specialist, many more tests, consults and an enormous amount of conflicting and varying information and opinions, she was able to get on the schedule of a neurosurgeon in Denver, Dr. Kevin Lillehei, who removed most of the tumor on 12/8. 

She was a “rockstar” going in, during, and after the surgery with amazing courage and a sense of humor throughout. She did so well, she was discharged in three days and was able to begin recovering at home, celebrating her 18th birthday, graduating, and enjoying the holidays, her favorite time of the year. 

Unfortunately, cancerous tumor is still present in areas that could not be touched by surgery. The treatment plan is being formulated with radiation and chemotherapy stretching over the next year.  Outside assistance with nutrition and supplemental therapies and a procedure that will protect her fertility will need to be paid for ‘out-of-pocket’.  In addition, possible inclusion in clinical trials are being explored around the country, none of which will be covered by insurance and can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

This gofundme page was set up by a dear and supportive friend and the overwhelming support thus far has helped tremendously, though we are now discovering that this is barely the start of what is going to be a very, very long and complicated journey.

So much of what is required to beat this cancer and ensure that Jules blesses the world with her amazing spirit through a full and long life, is unfortunately, NOT covered by insurance, and so we humbly and so greatly appreciate any and all support so we can give her the best opportunity to fight this and for us to be able to focus on what is most important- Jules and her full recovery.

Please share this link.  

With deepest gratitude.

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Ten weeks into this. Seventy days. Mother's Day this past Sunday. Today is Tuesday. I struggle to make sense of this emotion called grief - a weighted blanket of dense fog embraces my tired body earlier at the end of each day and later at the beginning of another. I'm not sure if this makes any sense. I try to find a working path. So many are so energetic about what they're doing, so excited. I am often filled with dread - what a new emotion to be so sad about someone so important and that I never thought I'd be without - so depressing. It is the strangest feeling. I continue to remind myself of what to be grateful for. Today it was the really blue sky that finally appeared this morning. It was those who reached out on Sunday and had thoughts to share for me. It is to everyone that helped us this past year and a half. All of you. I literally cooked, really cooked for the first time in a long while the other day. As I was sharing this news with a friend this evening, I stopped myself and felt gratitude for being cared for by everyone that brought us meals, contributed with gift cards, donations, time and time again. All of us, including Julietta, felt such appreciation for being held and cared for during this really dark time that continues for us. I hope you're all having a beautiful connection to those that you are with right this moment. I just wanted to reach out and say thank you.
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I have learned not to ask Dona how is doing or how she is feeling unless she initiates it.

Dona, Jamie and Niko are my beloved friends. My connection with Julietta, a rare precious gift. I spent countless hours in the hospital close up to the devastation and the grace. And yet, we live in different countries when it comes to grief and the consequences of what they call "the tsunami".

When I travel to this foreign destination, I come to understand there is never a "new normal". Maybe there's no answer to "how one is" because things shift moment-to-moment on the high seas of grief. In an instant, there can an insurmountable wall, followed by lightness, even laughter, and everything in-between. Some days some things weirdly fit and are manageable, other days are overwhelming and require large doses of tenderness and acceptance. Life now seems outside of regular time as we know it -- a period of grief ritual out of time.

Given this, the best I (and we) can do I think, is be a loving presence and remember that our True North on these high seas is staying connected.

In addition to staying connected is being responsive to the ongoing needs faced by this family in the aftermath of cancer and Jules' passing. In some cases, this is when some may want to understandably leave the "battlefield" in fatigue, sadness or perhaps the dread of universal impending losses. But truly, their journey is just beginning.

A close group of friends of the family is helping her navigate some of this as it is difficult for her to ask for ongoing help (especially given their work ethic).

Right now, we see the following needs as paramount:

Accumulated Medical Costs
Grief Support/Therapy
Ongoing Weekly Meals/Grocery Shopping

We trust that our community is up to the task of responding to the realities in the aftermath of this devastation and will continue to be generous, helpful and open-hearted. We all have so much to learn and understand from them about loss and resilience.

Thanks so much,
Jan Nadav
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Hello everyone-
Today I received this:

Good morning Dona. I doubt you know who I am but i knew Jules in high school and was in theatre with her as well as directing a one act she was in in 2016. I wasnt her best friend but I did talk to her enough to see how much of a beautiful soul she had and just how good of a person she was. I'm deeply saddened by her passing and want to offer my condolences. I cant even begin to comprehend the pain of losing a child and truly wish you didnt have to go through that pain. I dont have much money but if there is anything I can do to help your family, please let me know. Jules was such a beautiful person and I will forever remember and cherish the short time I spent with her.

* * *

It has been five heartbreaking weeks since my daughter died. Yes. My daughter died. It is so hard to write these words. Through this excruciatingly difficult time of grief, I’m comforted when people reach out and share stories, a meal, some support. We still want to stay connected with our community, all of you who have held us closely through all of this. Grieving takes longer than five weeks or even five months. It is a relief to feel your loving kindness...Thank you
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Tribute from Julietta’s teacher grades 1-3:

Over the last days I have been placing my memories of Julietta and then feeling deep sadness thinking of her passing. I am not sure how you all are doing this with such grace but I am so struck by your eloquence and your ability to share your experience so thoroughly with all of us. As heartbreaking as this whole thing has been, everything you have shared has helped me - thank you.

I have scoured memories in my mind, trying to place Jules' as she was during our time together. And while I know she grew so much in the last years (I can tell this by all that you have shared), I believe her essence was the same. Nineteen year old Jules' was so familiar to me, so much the same - exactly how I thought she would be in all of the most wonderful ways. You must be so proud to have been her family through all her life and through this.

This weekend I pulled out a scrap book that was made for me at the end of our three years together. Jules' entry is the very last one in the book - the page is covered with pressed flowers, amazing how they are still perfectly there on the page after all this time. I watched the slideshow we put together to celebrate our time together. You can tell how dear community, friends and her teachers were to her. Her light, her essences, her spirt were all right there. Though this brought me deep sorrow, it was so important for me to remember her this way.

I distinctly remember meeting Jules' and you, Dona before school started as you helped me set up my classroom for my very first year of teaching. Jules was running around full force with Raphael. She had such an angelic look but was truly a force to be reckoned with. She went through a phase where she kept pinching the boys, trying to get them to stop bugging her. She always knew what she wanted.

In looking through my email for your address a few weeks ago, I discovered a letter I wrote to Jules' for her 13th birthday - I adored her and I knew how smart she was, a truly gifted soul. She sincerely holds a special place in my heart - even after all these years and so many other sweet and special little ones. What a gift it was for me to spend so many simple days with her.

I wanted to share with you a tribute I wrote that we will be sending out in the BCSIS newsletter. I have also attached scans from the scrapbook I mentioned above - her writing broke my heart but also helped me find my own grief. I am glad to have access to my feelings of sorrow. I am so glad I was able to find it. So glad that I kept it. The tribute is below and I have attached the pages from the scrapbook as well as the photos we used for the tribute --- whenever you are ready to see them.

All my love and sorrow,


BCSIS Tribute:

Last week our community received some deeply sad news that a former BCSIS student, Julietta Laurita Smith passed away after a brave battle with brain cancer. As members of a community working to guide children, watching them grow and dreaming of their futures, I am sure you share in our grief whether or not you knew Jules and her family. The Laurita-Smith family were pillars in our community from Jules' 1st day in kindergarten in 2005 to Nikolai's 5th grade graduation in May, 2016. Dona, Jules' mom took our beautiful school photos while her children were at BCSIS and Nikolai, Jules' brother was also one of our bright and dynamic students.
Jules' was a true BCSIS kid - smart, witty, artistic and an asker of the deep questions. She was community oriented, even as a young child and she loved her friends and teachers. I found a note that Jules' wrote as a third grader and when talking about her class at BCSIS she said, " it's like I went through a know-a-lot machine!!! I enjoyed our community discussions, I liked the way I felt when I participated in activities that everyone was a part of".
If you would like to support this family through this unimaginably hard time, there are many ways to do so - please email Emily, emily.clay@bvsd.org for more information.
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Raised by 1,088 people in 21 months
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