A joke by Brooke Love, of Durham, is “Little Book – Big Laughs Joke Book.”

vbridges@newsobserver.comApril 20, 2014 

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    Cobey Long, 9, of Roxboro, also has a joke in the book: “Why did the dog go swimming? Because he was a hot dog.”

“How do you know that ice is laughing? It cracks up.”

That’s the joke that Brooke Love, 14, made up to stir smiles in her younger brother and sister after yet another day of appointments at Duke Children’s Hospital & Health Center in Durham.

Months later, the joke has taken on a life of its own after it was published in “Little Book – Big Laughs Joke Book.” The joke book for kids by kids was released on Amazon.com on April Fools’ Day to raise money for a charity arm of health insurance company UnitedHealthcare.

Its Children’s Foundation provides medical grants to help youngsters receive health-related services not covered by their parents’ health insurance plans.

Brooke and her brother Stephen, 10, are healthy, but Christan, 8, and David, 5, have kidney and spine problems. The family lives in Durham, and the children are homeschooled.

David was also diagnosed with hearing loss and apraxia of speech, a motor speech disorder that makes it hard for him to move his lips, tongue and muscles needed to speak.

“He knows what he wants to say, but then when he speaks it doesn’t come out as clear,” David’s mother Michelle Love said.

“It’s been amazing improvement,” his mother said.

Before the therapy, Love said she could see the excitement in David’s eyes when he spoke, but she struggled to understand him if she didn’t witness what he was describing.

Two years later, David is putting together sentences.

Here is David’s opinion on his favorite color: “I am going to say purple.” On speech therapy: “It is kind of fun. It is kind of not hard.”

On hearing his sister’s joke: “I kind of laughed.”

Brooke’s joke was one of 600 in the 167-page book. Fourteen of the jokes came from North Carolina children.

Over the past seven years, UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation has awarded more than 6,500 grants valued at more than $20 million.

Last year, the 1,700 recipients included 66 in North Carolina, said Matt Peterson, foundation president.

The grants are used for medical care that “that advances the clinical condition or quality of life of a child,” Peterson said.

As of last week, the sales for the joke book, which costs $5.99, had reached nearly $1,500, Peterson said.

The Loves learned about the opportunity to submit a joke after reading the foundation’s newsletter.

Earlier in the summer, Brooke had been sitting with David and Christan talking about what happened that day at Duke, she said, and they all started telling jokes.

“One just popped into my head,” Brooke said.

Brooke said that she does her best to encourage her siblings to laugh, but they have taught her what it means to be brave.

“If I went through what they went through, I don’t know how I’d handle it,” she said. “They always cheer me up, even when they are in a lot of pain.”

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