Today, the foundation raises several hundred thousand dollars and gives financial assistance each year to more than 300 families of burn victims. It has also provided classroom curricula regarding burn prevention and treatment to schools throughout the state. The foundation offers a free summer camp for young burn victims, support groups, a back-to-school program and a back-to-work program to help integrate burn victims back into society. There are six chapters throughout the state staffed by dozens of volunteers.
Michael Carrier, 31, hopes that someday the Alexis Macfarlane Memorial Tennis Tournament will be equally successful in raising money to help children.
Three years ago, when his daughter, Jessica, was 3, she couldn't seem to shake a bad cold. About the same time, he noticed that she was bruising more easily than usual. Blood tests showed that Jessica had leukemia.
Immediately, doctors began chemotherapy and Jessica was admitted to Childrens Hospital, where she shared a room with 11-year-old Alexis Macfarlane, also suffering from leukemia.
Alexis formed a bond with Jessica that hospital attendants said is unusual among young cancer patients.
"Childhood cancer is very, very painful, and most of the time the kids are in too much pain to walk down to the playroom or even sit up in bed," Carrier said. "But Alexis had a way of forgetting her own pain and comforting Jessica instead."
If Jessica was going in for a special chemotherapy treatment, Alexis would tell Carrier what Jessica could expect. And when Jessica would come out of treatment, Alexis would tell her that everything was going to be OK, that the pain would go away soon.
"Alexis did so much for all of us that she became like my own daughter," said Carrier, who is divorced from Jessica's mother, Paulette Elkins. "It was a very frightening, lonely time in my life as I watched my little girl suffer and Alexis was a single ray of light. She helped all of us to go on."
But in October, 1987, it became evident that Alexis was not going to survive. Her final request was a trip to Hawaii with her parents and it was there, later that month, that Alexis died.
"I don't know if Jessica understood that Alexis wasn't ever going to come back," Carrier said. "Lots of her friends at the hospital had died, but with Alexis, I think somehow Jessica wanted to believe she was still alive, still making someone smile."
And so, to keep Alexis' memory alive, Carrier began the memorial tennis tournament that in September, in its second year, raised more than $13,000 for the Hematology-Oncology Department at Childrens Hospital.
Alexis loved to play tennis and had dreamed of living long enough to play on a tennis team; Michael Carrier owns a tennis shop in West Hollywood.
"A tennis tournament seemed like an obvious way to help other children who have cancer, children like my daughter," Carrier said. 'And at the same time, it seemed like the perfect way to keep Alexis' memory alive."
Alexis' parents live out of state but support Carrier's efforts, he said. Although they plan to attend the tournament eventually, neither parent has participated in the first two because they are still dealing with their daughter's death.
In the recent tournament, Carrier attracted enough locally prominent tennis players that Century Cable televised several matches. L'Ermitage Foundation and the city of West Hollywood sponsored the tournament, which was held at Plummer Park in West Hollywood.
"I'm looking to make this even bigger next year," Carrier said. "She was such a special little girl that I want this tournament to really make a difference in her memory."
Meanwhile, Jessica has been in remission for several months, but doctors say she must go as long as eight years before she can be considered free of cancer.
"In a sense, Alexis is still helping Jessica even now, just like she did when she was here with us," Carrier said. "It takes money to research a cure for leukemia and each year as the tennis tournament grows, so will the funds that someday will find that cure. Knowing that makes it easy to keep this up."
Mary and Warren Campbell agree that the tedious and sometimes frustrating aspects of fund raising pale when they think of the people they are helping in their daughter's memory.
Lynn Campbell was 23 when she had a dermatologist check out an irregular mole on her back. It was diagnosed as melanoma, a form of skin cancer. Doctors removed a large area surrounding the mole, including lymph nodes near the incision, and a biopsy showed that all the cancer had been removed.
For the next several years, Lynn continued full time the activities she had been involved with most of her adult life--fund raising. She volunteered to raise money for the United Farm Workers and then for several women's groups.