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Touched by an angel

Doug Strauss, left, and friend Bob Turner are remembering 11-year-old Gloria Strauss through their nonprofit organization, Gloria
Doug Strauss, left, and friend Bob Turner are remembering 11-year-old Gloria Strauss through their nonprofit organization, Gloria's Angels. The organization will assist families with a sick parent or child. A portrait of Gloria hangs on the wall in this photo.
— image credit: Jacinda Howard/The Mirror

By JACINDA HOWARD, The Mirror

Doug Strauss does not look like a man who lost his 11-year-old daughter to cancer just four months ago.

He has a twinkle in his eyes and smile on his face.

He refuses to let his sorrow draw him into an empty abyss of depression.

Gloria Strauss, 11, the second oldest of seven children, took her final breath Sept. 21, 2007, before she died from neuroblastoma, a form of cancer usually affecting children.

The Strauss family — Doug, wife Kristen, Gloria and her siblings — battled the disease for four years. Gloria’s condition changed rapidly before the cancer eventually failed to respond to medication.

One month she would be dancing and singing joyfully; the next month she would be bedridden.

As devout Catholics, the family prayed for a miracle and believed whole-heartedly that Gloria would be saved.

Remembering Gloria:

Gloria’s passing has been hard on her family.

“I spend my moments just bawling, thinking about Gloria,” Strauss said.

But succumbing to hardship and loss is not what this family is about. Instead, they choose to glorify Gloria and pass on the good fortune they received from their neighbors and friends during their time of need.

“We are not going to get sunk by this,” Strauss said.

Giving back:

Doug and family friend Bob Turner started a nonprofit organization called Gloria’s Angels.

The nonprofit will provide help to families with a sick parent or child. Volunteers will be dispersed to complete yard work, clean homes and bestow child care, transportation, counseling and meals, Strauss said.

“It’s providing whatever the family needs,” he said.

The nonprofit began formulating in Strauss’ mind in February 2006. Gloria had been admitted to the hospital and the community’s support was evident.

“Her hospital room looked like a gift shop,” Strauss said.

In 2007, the family returned home to find their yard cared for and home cleaned and painted. This same year, Turner lent the family a van after their transportation failed them. At times, friends would visit the Strauss home to help with small tasks, such as laundry. The assistance was much appreciated, but also something the family found hard to ask for, Strauss said.

“We were too humble, too proud to ask for (help),” he said.

Strauss realized then that other families needed help with everyday tasks. He and Turner hope Gloria’s Angels will unite the community in working toward a common goal, Turner said.

“We want people helping people in their own neighborhoods,” he said.

Gaining momentum:

Strauss retired from his job at Kennedy High School, where he spent 13 years coaching basketball and seven years teaching. Forming Gloria’s Angels is his main focus now. He is well aware of his decrease in income, but wants to help others.

“I went from teaching to a nonprofit,” Strauss said. “I’m going backwards.”

Though the nonprofit is in its beginning stages, Strauss and Turner hope to offer their services by the conclusion of March, Turner said. The duo generated a list of volunteers and plan to speak to local schools, hospitals and churches about their organization soon, he said.

Major League Baseball pitcher Jamie Moyer and his wife, Karen, founders of the Moyer Foundation, have offered to assist Strauss and Turner in their quest to establish Gloria’s Angels, Strauss said. He and Turner wish to see Gloria’s Angels one day spread to cities nationwide.

“We can dream big and start small, Turner said.

Guidance from above:

The Strauss family has heard many stories since Gloria’s passing. They have led Doug Strauss to believe his daughter is in heaven looking over him and others. People have told him that Gloria appeared to them as an angel in their dreams, Strauss said.

“She’s been a busy little girl,” he said.

Reflecting on Gloria’s struggle against cancer, Strauss now believes his daughter is were she is meant to be.

“Our breakthrough was heaven,” he said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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Check it out:

Read more about the Strauss family and Gloria’s Angels at the Glorified by Gloria Web site, www.gloriastrauss.org.

Watch the multiple video documentations of Gloria’s life at www.youtube.com.

Learn more about Gloria’s Angels by visiting www.gloriasangels.com, which is expected to be in operation by Feb. 15.

Support Gloria’s Angels by attending a 7:45 p.m. Feb. 13 basketball game between the Des Moines police and South King Fire and Rescue firefighters at Mt. Rainier High School, 22450 19th Ave. S., Des Moines. A game between Mt. Rainier and Kennedy High School faculty will also occur the same evening.

Expect an auction and gala to take place in support of the nonprofit on May 16. More details will follow on the Gloria’s Angels Web site.

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