Napkin notes: Dad with cancer preps lunch messages for his daughter

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For years, Garth Callaghan has been writing notes on napkins that go in his daughter’s lunchbox. They’re usually inspirational quotes or simple messages -- “This week is going to be awesome! Don’t forget to do your part!” -- that give father and daughter a moment to connect during the day.

He wants to make sure 14-year-old Emma gets a note every day until she graduates from high school -- even if he’s no longer around to write them.

Callaghan has been diagnosed with kidney cancer, and he’s not sure how long he has to live. So he’s in the process of writing 826 notes that, if needed, can be doled out to Emma once he’s gone.


After contacting the nonprofit Because I Said I Would in November, Callaghan started writing not just daily notes, but also notes for the future, the organization’s founder, Alex Sheen, told the Los Angeles Times. By the end of last week, he had completed 740.

Sheen, who founded Because I Said I Would after his own father died of cancer in September 2012, said he was impressed with Callaghan’s passion for the project.

“Obviously Garth is so committed,” Sheen said, noting that the 826 notes were Callaghan’s idea. “I wanted to help him share the message. It’s one about parenting. ... He wants to encourage parents to make a positive impact on their kids.”

To that end, Callaghan, who lives in Glen Allen, Va., shares his notes online. He has a website where he encourages people to “Pack. Write. Connect.” He blogs there and posts the notes on Facebook and Twitter. In September, he published a Kindle eBook of quotes he has written on napkins for Emma.

His online efforts have inspired other parents and garnered messages of support, he wrote on his blog. But they also inspired someone closer to him: Emma, who wrote her dad his first note earlier this month.

“I walked into work this morning and opened the lunchbox to pull out my oatmeal,” Callaghan wrote on Jan. 13. “I saw a paper towel next to my food. I was sure that I didn’t put anything like that in there.”


He opened the paper towel to see his daughter’s handwriting.

“If my friends really did jump off a cliff, it’s because it was my idea,” Emma had written. “Sincerely, your daughter is a leader, not a follower.

“PS. I think you used all the napkins.”
Twitter: @lauraelizdavis


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