Anita Chiles sees the power of the bead

Foundation honors the memory of her daughter, who died at 18

By Jane Knoerle

Almanac Lifestyles Editor

In the past 10 years, the Alexandra Chiles Foundation has assembled more than 30,000 beading kits to donate to hospitalized children, but Anita Chiles of Atherton doesn't want to stop there.

By offering bead kits through a website (, Ms. Chiles hopes the project will go nationwide, maybe global, "so any group in the country could order them," she says.

Alexandra Chiles Foundation honors the memory of Anita and Robert Chiles' daughter, Alexandra. Alex was 18 years old when she died in March 2000, following a six-year battle with cancer and the complications of a bone-marrow transplant.

During her many stays at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford, a favorite activity was beading necklaces, which she gave away as gifts.

The teenager was a member of the Stanford Hills Chapter of the National Charity League, which requires members to do community service. Alexandra's contribution was assembling beading kits for other hospitalized children and teens.

After her death, the Charity League girls kept making the kits. The project grew from there, enlisting volunteers from a wide variety of organizations who have assembled thousands of kits in the past 10 years.

Many local students have worked on kits, including students from Menlo-Atherton High School, Sacred Heart Preparatory, Menlo School, Castilleja, Crystal Springs Uplands, and St. Francis High Schools.

The kits have been distributed to Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford, Oakland Children's Hospital, and Valley Medical in San Jose, among others. The foundation has also supplied kits to Paul Newman's first Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Connecticut, the Painted Turtle summer camp near Malibu, and Camp Okizu in Berry Creek, California.

Patients have used their creativity to make necklaces, bracelets, headbands, key chains and lanyards.

For the past 10 years, Ms. Chiles has been the driving force behind the foundation, giving much of her time to the cause. When she asked for help, her friends responded.

On Sept. 19 they held a garden party and silent auction at the home of Bill and Lee Schroeder in Atherton. Wine and appetizers were served to some 90 guests who responded generously, raising $10,000 for the foundation.

Among those attending was Janice C. Parsons, former owner of the much-loved Bead Shop in Palo Alto, who spoke on "The Power of the Bead." She is listed as one of the founders of the Alexandra Chiles Foundation, along with Joan Karlin and Ms. Chiles.

Colette Case of Packard Children's Hospital and Suzanne Berkes of Oakland Children's Hospital and Research Center were also speakers.

Alex's father, Robert, and brother, Andrew, were also on hand helping the party run smoothly.

Anita Chiles hopes getting the word out about the foundation will motivate "this cause or other causes. We are privileged to have so much and want to inspire people to help those who are less fortunate. We believe that creativity is transcending and giving empowering," she says.

Visit to learn more about the foundation.

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