Between the Lines

Cheeriodicals bring smiles to ailing kids and precious “me” time to others.

By Les Lovoy      Photo by Beau Gustafson

It all started with an act of kindness and caring. Mary Martha Parisher’s uncle was undergoing chemotherapy at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. She thought he might like some cheering up. She knew how much he enjoyed fishing. So she called the hospital gift shop and asked if they could deliver a handful of fishing magazines to his room. Their response was, “We don’t have fishing magazines, and even if we did, we don’t deliver them to patient rooms.”

That’s when the idea came to Parisher and her husband, Gary. They would create a business where people could receive their favorite magazines and some snacks in a gift box. That seed of an idea blossomed into Cheeriodicals. A Cheeriodical is comprised of a distinctive, upscale keepsake box with four magazines and tasty edibles. You can choose one based on someone’s gender or interests, or on occasion or season.

It sounded like a great idea, but what they really wanted was to bring a smile to a child’s face, so they tested the product. They gathered some magazines a child would enjoy and some snacks and surprised a patient at Children’s Hospital. “The look on his face said it all,” Gary says. “It was the biggest smile you’ve ever seen.We just looked at each other and knew we had found our calling.”

Cheeriodicals is based in Mt. Laurel, not far outside of Birmingham. You walk into an open space. A table is moved to the side. In the middle of the floor lie rows and rows of green boxes, each being filled with magazines and tasty treats. Mary Martha greets with you a warm smile. Gary is not far behind with a smile and a firm handshake. After chatting with them for a few minutes, it doesn’t take long to realize how much they love their business, but neither started out in the on-line gifting industry.

Both Mary Martha and Gary came from backgrounds with companies that provided products for children with life-threatening diseases. He worked in the biotech/pharmaceutical business for 22 years, most recently with Genzyme. She was in-house counsel for Axcan Scandipharm, a Birmingham-based pharmaceutical company. From their experiences, they wanted to focus on bringing smiles to children who are suffering from serious illnesses and make a measurable impact on the children’s lives. Cheeriodicals are filled with age-appropriate magazines, activity books, crayons, puzzles, stickers, games, room decorations and more goodies for children to enjoy.

Chatting with the two, you instantly feel the depth of their commitment. “We have held a Cheeriodicals Day for Children’s Alabama,” Gary says. “Over 238 Cheeriodicals were delivered, one for each child. Last month, we delivered 200 gift boxes to children at St. Jude Children’s Research in Memphis.  Both were amazing events where we worked with hospital staff, child-life services and cause marketing to light up the entire hospital with smiles and big, green boxes of cheer.”

Gary says they held a Cheeriodicals Day at Atlanta Children’s Hospital in August. Two-hundred-fifty gift boxes were delivered, and the program’s sponsor was M9 Solutions, an Atlanta technology company. Gary said Cheeriodicals is having discussions with more than a dozen other children’s hospitals around the country to schedule Cheeriodicals deliveries in the months to come.

The Parishers’ commitment to children with serious illnesses extends further than bringing them happiness through Cheeriodicals. For each Cheeriodical box purchased online at using the promotional code “CHILDRENSOFAL,” $3 is donated to Children’s of Alabama.

Bringing a child joy has always been a primary focus of Cheeriodicals. But they aren’t the only ones who have the pleasure of opening a beautiful, green box and seeing their favorite magazines and delicious snacks. Adults can experience Cheeriodicals, as well. Companies give them to clients. “It tells a customer that you care enough about them to know what their interests and hobbies are, and you give them something that is unique to them and a gift they will not receive from anyone else, “ Mary Martha says.

Cheeriodicals has created gift boxes for University of Alabama football, University of Tennessee Lady Vols basketball, BBVA Compass, Northwestern Mutual of Alabama, Northwestern Mutual Tennessee, Hampton Inn, Trinovis, Alabama Children’s, St. Jude Children’s and Northwestern Benefits, among others.

“Individuals also enjoy giving a Cheeriodical to that special person in their life,” Gary says. “People order them for birthdays, anniversaries, holidays.”

“And everyone enjoys some ‘me’ time,” Mary Martha adds. “That’s what Cheeriodicals give them, the chance to kick back with their favorite magazines, some tasty snacks, and enjoy a few minutes just to themselves. We all can use that in our world today.”

A major challenge for Cheeriodicals is for people to appreciate the quality of the box and the total gift before they purchase one. The gifts are not sold at traditional brick-and-mortar retail stores. They are only sold on the Internet. “Our photos don’t really don’t do Cheeriodicals justice,” Mary Martha says. “But when people receive them, we get excellent feedback on how much they enjoy and appreciate the gift.”

Mary Margaret relates great stories about how recipients save their boxes. “Some have them out as an accessory in their homes,” she says. “Others house keepsake jewelry and wedding photos. We even know of a man who has his gift box in the back of his truck and keeps his tools in it. It’s great to know people care so much about our gift boxes. They’ll keep them around for years.”•

One Response to “Between the Lines”

  1. Bill Dixon says:

    I was part of a team building event with Cheeriodicals last month in Savannah. This is a great company. They took the online gifting concept and made it much more personal by incorporating a hospital gift delivery – one for every child. We had a great time building and delivering boxes!

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