A Star Continues to Shine

By Carolyn Shanley | Photography by Jack Foley
Pictured above: Lori and Evangeline Earl

Acknowledge the people in your life and always say I love you–these are two life lessons that capture the essence of 16-year-old Esther Earl of Quincy, who died of thyroid cancer in August 2010.

“We call this the Esther effect,” said Lori Earl, speaking of her daughter. “Because of her illness, Esther was very aware of the importance of saying these things while she could. It really helped us as a family.”

Esther was a typical teenager with a bright spark of energy who found joy in her family and the many online friends she made while confined to a hospital bed for cancer treatments. A proud Harry Potter fan and a Nerdfighter (a person made up of awesomeness), Esther enjoyed the work of author John Green and his brother, musician Hank Green, who coined the term through their video blog project Brotherhood 2.0. Esther met John Green and many of her Harry Potter Alliance friends when the Make- A-Wish Foundation brought them together in Boston in 2009.

At the time, Green, already a published author, was beginning work on his bestselling book, “The Fault in Our Stars,” which he published and dedicated to Esther after her death. The main character, Hazel Grace Lancaster—a teenage girl with thyroid cancer—was inspired by Esther and other important people in Green’s life. The book was later made into a movie starring actress Shailene Woodley and became a 2014 summer blockbuster.

Another book published after Esther’s death, “This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl,” features a collection of her journals, letters, drawings and fiction writing, as well as blogs written by her parents and a forward by Green. Lori is especially pleased to find many young people have read the book, some struggling with cancer or chronic illness, and are embracing Esther’s message.

After Esther’s death, Lori and her older daughter, Evangeline, started a nonprofit called This Star Won’t Go Out (TSWGO) to help struggling families who have a child diagnosed with cancer. Based in Quincy, TSWGO provides financial assistance for medical and travel expenses as well as household bills, home care and personal items. To date, the organization has awarded over $450,000 in grants; a single grant is usually $1,300-$2,000. “There are so many things that insurance does not cover,” says Lori. “Esther wanted her life to have an impact, so we are carrying on to make the world a little better place for these families.”

TSWGO works closely with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Jimmy Fund to identify families in need. The charity is hosting a Shine Under the Stars Gala fundraiser on June 15, from 7-11 p.m. at the Waterclub at Marina Bay. Emceed by Fox News anchors Sorboni Banerjee and Julie Grauert, the gala is open to the public and will feature music, dancing and prizes. The theme is “Shine!” and glittery, sparkling cocktail attire is suggested. More info

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