Every single day, 43 children are diagnosed with cancer, and many more struggle with auto-immune disease and other life-threatening conditions. Most non-profits in this vein are devoted to raising funds to research cures, but the fact remains: 12 percent of these children will not survive. Either way, they have a lot of emotions to work through.
What can be done to ease their minds? To provide closure for their families? To help these kids tell their stories? Those are the questions that inspired the TALK Foundation.
The brainchild of composer Megan Cavallari, the TALK Foundation allows children and teens who are undergoing treatment for chronic illnesses the opportunity to be heard, to tell their stories and express how they feel. Armed with a custom portable recording studio that fits in a bag—a machine of her own invention—Cavallari records breakthrough sessions and gives them a CD of it right on the spot.
We had a chance to learn more about this incredibly important work.
Jill Robi: When you went in for your first session, what was it like? Is it something you can even prepare for?
Megan Cavallari: The first experience was amazing. Nothing a patient says or feels is wrong. I’m just there to listen. Being present with people is the way you want to be in the world, so there’s really no preparation. I am only there to record their story or how they feel. It’s an honor.
JR: What moment sparked the idea of the TALK Foundation?
MC: I was in Hollywood Business Lunch Group at the Jewish Federation. Many of the people had foundations, and we all worked for each other. We were known as the Steve Price “Mench” Lunch. I wanted to start a foundation that had to do with sound as well as helping children and teenagers with life threatening diseases. Steve [Price] helped me write the mission statement, and Dr. Juliet Warner and Dr. Jack Quinn have helped guide me.
JR: How do you get the kids to open up and talk? How do you put them at ease?
MC: I start with, “How is your day going?” They open up pretty quickly. [Kids] can talk about anything, and often say [things] so incredibly wise beyond their years. I have such respect for them.
JR: When did you realize, “This makes sense. This works?”
MC: Patients were happier when I left. They asked me when I was coming back, if I wanted to come to their birthday party next week, so I could record that, too. Patients talk to others about me, and soon I’m interviewing everyone in the ward. Friends of friends, cousins, roommates… They call each other. When you’re sick, you’re not in control. [These recording sessions] give people a chance to be in control and speak.
I also prove no one is alone. People want to hear what these kids have to say. It’s an element missing from hospitals. The soul has to be repaired, too. They have all been through such traumas. They are courageous survivors, and outsiders don’t always know how to embrace them or learn from them. These kids are heroes.
JR: As a parent, what is the most important thing that you capture during a session?
MC: My daughter, Shoshie, has had juvenile arthritis since she was 1 ½ years old, so I know my way around hospitals and chemo wards. I know what it’s like to be a scared parent, and how serious to take auto-immune diseases. I can see things from all different points of view, and I learn from the children and teens I record.
JR: What about as a composer?
MC: I come from a place of love and respect. I know that sound has tremendous power. Music is a universal language, and I am one of the luckiest people on the planet to make a living writing film scores and songs. Recording young patients who are fighting for life is a whole other level. That sound has more value than everything any composer could ever write. That is the sound of life.
JR: What is your ultimate goal at the end of each session?
MC: To bring hope. To bring light. To provide understanding. To help; be caring. To let children and teenagers with these diseases to be heard.