“Jumanji” Author Comes to GR for Film Premiere

"Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" premiere's in Grand Rapids.

Families will come together for action, adventure and an opportunity to support the children’s programs of Hospice of Michigan at the Tuesday evening premiere of “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”—at both Celebration! Cinema North in Grand Rapids and the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor.

Marcie Hillary, Sr. VP of community relations at Hospice of Michigan, is excited about the premiere because it’s the first event of its kind for the organization. “This premiere is significant because this is the first time since we’ve been a statewide program that we’ve done a fundraising event, and so that’s why we’re doing it in both cities,” Hillary said.

“We are the country’s first statewide pediatric end-of-life care program and it’s a pretty big deal. No other state has the same kind of program with the same geographic coverage that we do,” she continued. “I think it’s pretty special.”

The pediatric programs at Hospice of Michigan fall under the Jo Elyn Nyman Anchors Programs and are designed to support the needs of children and their families in various situations. While the hospice program provides care to children with critical illnesses, the Compass and perinatal programs offer other services that families may need.

Jumanji author Chris Van Allsburg will be in town for the film premiere.
Jumanji author Chris Van Allsburg will be in town for the film premiere.

“Compass is a program that helps families navigate when they have a really complex illness,” Hillary said. “They may or may not be ready for hospice care but they do need some help and they need our expertise in helping to guide them.”

The perinatal program helps expectant parents whose child may have a chronic illness. “When a family finds out in utero that their child may have some sort of life-limiting illness we help stay with that family through all their doctor visits, through the birth of that child and care for both the family and the patient afterward,” Hillary said. “It’s a tough program—this is tough work, but it’s so important for the health of not only the family but the siblings afterward to have a really good end of life experience.”

But why premiere “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle?” As it turns out, the author of “Jumanji,” Chris Van Allsburg, is a Grand Rapids native and has been supporting Hospice of Michigan for years. It all started with an event that Van Allsburg and his wife Lisa helped organize at the Children’s Hospital in Providence Rhode Island.

The couple instantly saw the first “Jumanji” movie as an opportunity to support the children of the hospital and their families. From there, it just kept growing. “I think it might have been Marcie who reached out—and perhaps she’d heard of the effort in and Providence around “Jumanji”—and proposed a “Polar Express” premiere to benefit children’s hospice.” Van Allsburg said. “My wife and I were both enthusiastic about the possibility.”

The couple would later support Hospice of Michigan a second time with the film adaptation of Van Allsburg’s “Zathura.” “When my third film came out, we saw it as another opportunity to do an event in Grand Rapids and try to raise some more money for children’s hospice,” Van Allsburg said. “So we did that and that was a success. So now I imagine that whenever a film is made from one of my books it will be used as a way to draw attention to the mission of children’s hospice.”

As for Tuesday evening, Van Allsburg urges everyone to come out and join the fun. “Lots of times, participating in fundraisers means sitting in a room listening to people give uninteresting speeches and getting some bad hotel food,” he said. “What you get with this is a movie and a bucket of popcorn and it ought to be an enjoyable evening.”

Tickets for the Grand Rapids premiere are $100 per person for the 7:30 pm show. Admission includes the film, popcorn and a dessert reception at the theater following the screening.

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