2020 Spirit Angel Award

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Maureen (Moe) Winkler Spirit Angel Award to the family of Helen Thompson Whitley  

In 2019 Helen Thompson Whitley’s family  became involved with the Spirit Foundation and joined the fight against cervical cancer shortly after her passing in April of 2019 at the age of 57.

As a therapist, Helen was fulfilling her true calling, which was to help others.  Her last wish was for her husband to continue to bring awareness to this disease and to fight for others.

Helen is lovingly remembered by her husband of 23 years Craig Whitley, siblings Marilyn Altman (Dan Gaylord), Dan Thompson (Joe Bazemore), Edie Rose, and Reese Thompson (Bernice). Helen will also be lovingly remembered by her two nieces Samantha Rose Thompson and Kathryn Thompson Gaylord. In addition to  her family Helen leaves behind her many, many friends, she was loved by everyone who knew her, and will be greatly missed.

Here is her story:

In March 2018 Helen was diagnosed with Stage I Cervical Cancer by April she was diagnosed with Stage IV. Her cancer had metastasized to her spine and after a courageous battle she passed at home on April 23, 2019 with her husband Craig by her side.


On September 15, 1961, Helen was born in Jackson, Mississippi to parents Marilyn Sanderson Thompson and Dehart Hagan Thompson. It was in the city of Jackson that Helen lived out her formative years with her family until the summer of 1972, when the family moved to Atlanta, Georgia. Helen then completed her primary education in Dunwoody, Georgia. She continued her education at Georgia State University, studying psychology and counseling until she eventually earned the title of Licensed Clinical Social Worker, LCSW. Helen set up a private practice and enjoyed a 24-year career as a devoted therapist, helping many people during her tenure. Her mission was to make the world a better place and to help others lead happier, more fulfilling lives.


In 1999, Helen married Craig Whitley, a Clinical Hypnotherapist, and they began life together continuing to help others. From 2008 to 2013, Helen and Craig shared Laughter Yoga with thousands of people, often in large settings like the NASW convention and the Georgia Addiction Counselors Convention. They were hired by dozens of businesses to do presentations in-house. They also trained and certified almost 200 people in the 2-day weekend certified laughter yoga leader trainings. Helen was a pioneer in the field of laughter yoga due to her distinction of being the first person in the United States–and possibly the world–to get that 2-day training approved for continuing education units for mental health professionals. This training had the ripple effect wherein those trained in laughter yoga would, in turn train others, thereby spreading the joys of laughter yoga to an even wider audience.


As a therapist, Helen was fulfilling her true calling, which was to help others. She was one the fortunate people in life to have found her calling, and she gave it her all. One of Helen’s dreams was to one day retire to Florida, as she had always loved the beach. She considered this, but she knew she would have to start a new practice from scratch, and she would have had to leave her former practice behind, thereby breaking the close connections she had established with her Georgia patients. As much as she loved Florida, she loved her profession and her patients more.