Thursday, June 8, 2017

It's Up To You

This blog post was partially sparked by a recent conversation our founder had on a recent Uber ride home.
These days it seems like the majority of my Uber rides, no matter where I’m coming from or where I’m going, I often start talking about Cardz for Kidz! with the drivers. With one driver it was about how he leads a summer camp and how it would be good for his kids to participate, and on another ride it was about how we’ve been trying to expand and increase our presence across Africa and other parts of the globe. The driver commented on how our presence in Africa is pretty minimal, which leads me into how It’s Up to You.
Thankfully, based on the increased participation, we are no longer saying the only way we can reach kids outside of the United States is if people Carry a Bit More, but we do need some help to find hospitals or shelters that would want cards from a small non-profit in the United States.
Now, if you were to follow our social media closely and were to check out this map you’d probably be a bit confused. 

Here’s a group that claims to be, “100% open and honest”, but doesn’t have any special marks in the Philippines or Australia even though they posted about making special shipments there recently. That’s true, but since the majority of our special deliveries are directly to children’s homes, we REFUSE to publicly display that information (it’s the same in the USA). If you hover over any of the images on the map on our homepage you’ll see the name of the location. Then if you click on it you’ll the see the address. We’re always interested in finding new hospitals/shelters so we can impact more children. These locations can be places that we partner with on a quarterly basis here in North America or locations anywhere in the globe where we’d send special deliveries. Please let us know if you have any recommendations!
So if you’re wondering how you can help us reach new locations whether it’s within the United States or anywhere across the globe it’s VERY easy. Just in case you don’t believe us, just check out our How-To page.
If you see the first section with all the files at the top, that’s all about how to host events and make cards. With that there are a bunch more requirements and it’s a bit more “tough”. We put together PowerPoints and signs that you can lay across the table and even a file with links to Amazon with all the recommended art supplies. Now when it comes to receiving cards, it’s actually two steps and no files attached. All you need to do is tell us the number of cards you need and promise they’ll all be hand delivered.
So when we were originally designing that page for our site we were thinking of disheartened children in the USA, but as you can see in the map above we’re able to make special deliveries to kids across the globe. The only thing is someone needs to reach out to us and layout how many cards and what address we should send them to. So we can say, it’s up to us to collect the amount of cards that each hospital and/or shelter needs, but IT’S UP TO YOU to help us reach children in different countries that you may feel passionately connected to.
Check out this album on Facebook to see some of our global deliveries – Special Global Deliveries!
#itsuptoyou #upliftingspirits #acrosstheglobe
To see more pictures and stories, please check out our website; like us on Facebook; follow us on Twitter and Instagram; visit our Google+ or LinkedIn pages! Also, check out some of our videos on YouTube! 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Help Wanted

One good sign of an improving economy is starting to see “We’re Hiring” signs in different stores. We feel that means that different small businesses and/or convenience stores have experienced an increase in demand, are starting to sell more, and/or their prior employees have been able to move up to better positions. Now one thing associated with all those signs is some form of monetary composition. Based on that, although we’re looking for some additional support, we definitely couldn’t use one of those types of signs!

Thankfully Cardz for Kidz! has started to grow in a couple ways. We’ve started to receive more donations from companies such as UBS, as well as started to get more cards from groups like PLS. Due to that combination, we’d love to get more assistance in order to expand what we do on the backend and help spread the word.

Here are some of the ways we’re looking for help!

Since we’re based in Chicago, we’d expect these volunteers to live in the Chicagoland area – or to be EXTREMELY passionate about Cardz for Kidz! and be willing to travel! 😊 These volunteers would help us sort through the cards, double checking to make sure all the cards are appropriate; if groups don’t pick the Top 10 on their own, we may need volunteers to select that for some packages; help put the Cardz for Kidz! sticker on cards; as well as help us reach out to new hospitals and/or shelters. The work with the cards would take place on the weekend, while we would need some individuals to help with contacting hospitals during the week. Currently, this is all being done by one person, but we’d love to get a team of volunteers so we’d be able to grow and thankfully partner with thousands of more children.


We’ve started contacting some individuals, but if you know anyone who may be interested in helping provide input on how we can help increase our global impact, we’d love to hear from you. The three key things we need from this portion of the board is advocacy, strategic recommendations, and occasional fundraising. We create and send quarterly updates that show our statistics in terms of where we’re getting the cards and where we’re sending the cards, as well as some details on the donations and expenses. 
 Example chart from prior quarterly summary.

We expect this team to provide insight in decisions regarding growth or allocating our resources most effectively. In addition, to the quarterly summary, we also have an annual phone call where we run through the overall details that year and discuss Cardz for Kidz! with all the board members.

In summary, we’re looking for people who align with our mission and are interested in making a commitment to impacting the lives of disheartened children and solemn seniors across the globe. The time commitments would range from every other week to on average once a month. So similar to how everyone behind the scenes at Cardz for Kidz!  is volunteering, we’re going to ask these new additions to primarily volunteer as well. With that in mind we can’t technically post a We’re Hiring sign, but we know based on our current growth and our future goals we can definitely say there’s HELP WANTED!

#HelpWanted #UpliftingSpirits

To see more pictures and stories, please check out our; like us on Facebook; follow us on Twitter and Instagram; visit our Google+ or LinkedIn pages! Also, check out some of our videos on YouTube!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Take A Break

“Why should we?”

That’s not a question we have heard from potential participants, but, still, we felt we should prepare ourselves just in case. Usually, when we’re highlighting why groups should join in, we think the better question is, “why shouldn’t you?!?!” We talk to groups about how it’s really cost efficient way to give back! During some of our events we’ve noticed there was approximately a $0.30 cost per card expense and that will likely decline over time since you won’t have to buy markers and/or scissors each time. Very efficient. Then we can highlight how it’s a ton of fun. It’s not often that people get to revert back to drawing cartoon characters and searching through their cell phones to find the hottest jokes and/or trying to recall if the Minions have names.

But this time, we want to show some facts that are outside of our statistics and opinions. Research shows that having employees and/or students doing relaxing things throughout the day (e.g. making fun cards with classmates and/or coworkers) can increase productivity. First, while browsing the internet, we found on article on that highlights that taking these types of fun breaks can increase productivity. The article quotes that these, “breaks are particularly re-energizing if workers spend the time doing something they enjoy.” Something they enjoy—we’re bias, but we think using glitter pens to impact kids across the globe is a perfect fit! In addition, we found another article in the Huffington Post that highlights similar findings, and an Atlantic article that says exactly how long those breaks should be. Taking time to step aside and make a creative card could be a perfect fit.

Now we’ve shown some factors about how creativity and taking breaks from the computer are a good fit, but we also want to show some background on why Cardz for Kidz! is a good fit directly. Once again, while doing some research we learned that these days employee turnover has been slightly increasing. 

In addition, as quoted by a post on TinyPulse, 1 in 4 employees would be willing to leave their current company for simply a 10% raise. One way to improve loyalty is to improve employee morale and engagement. When researching some of the best ways to do that we googled employee engagement and found a story on - this highlights the 10 best ways to increase employee engagement. Please understand we didn’t ask them to include it, but if you check out the list, number nine is volunteer together! One example, making cards for disheartened children! 😊 Then again if we check out this blog post on JustWorks we see that of the top 10 ways to improve employee morale, at least six were directly related to group events;  volunteering, themed potlucks, decorating contests, team swag, include families (bring a child to work day), and change the way you operate (celebrate accomplishments – Top 10).

In summary, hopefully, after reading this post, it’ll be a bit harder for people to answer our question, “Why not?” Not only is it efficient and fun to put together an event, but there’s data that shows it’s very rewarding. Therefore, when your group make cards it could range from setting aside a couple hours and getting everyone to work together OR simply having art supplies around so people can slip away from their desk whenever they need to TAKE A BREAK - based on the research, sounds like either way should work!

#takeabreak #upliftingspirits

To see more pictures and stories, please check out our website, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, visit our Google+ or LinkedIn page! Also, check out some of our videos on YouTube

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Perfect Pair

Sorry for all of the confusion about how Cardz for Kidz! is growing! At first we told you what we wanted to be When We Grew Up—able to issue scholarships to former patients. Next, we briefly shared about what we wanted to do in our pre-teen years—Long-Term Impact Across the Globe. Now, while those are both still part of our future plans, we’re going to introduce one more objective. Something a bit more immediate. Something we’re going to start fundraising for this summer!

We were so close to initially describing our partnership with the Gamers Outreach Foundation as being “a match made in heaven.” We both have a similar mission of reaching children unable to leave their hospital rooms—and we were established in the same state: Michigan. However, the only thing that wasn’t heavenly was our inability to agree (fiancially) on how much this partnership would cost us. In case you don’t want to click on the link and check out their website, we’ll provide you with some background information right here. The Gamers Outreach Foundation is an organization that puts TVs and Xbox gaming consoles on custom portable stands—called “GO Karts” (Gamers Outreach Karts)—and donates them to hospitals across the country.

Now here’s why we were initially so excited to connect with this foundation. Thankfully our financial donations started to increase; so, we decided that since we had more than enough money to cover some of our global card shipments, we could start to do a bit more. 

Children in the UK opening up their first package of cards!

If you’ve followed us for a while you already know we’re PASSIONATE about the young patients confined to their hospital rooms. Therefore, as donations increased, we began to think of a way to donate portable TV+video game consoles to hospitals that could go from room-to-room—just like the cards you make! At first, we reached out to one non-profit and they told us it would cost $5,000 for one of those systems. We tried to explain how we’re also a non-profit and we don’t need our name on them—we’re just trying to help the hospitals, but they refused to listen. Then we talked with some connections about potentially building our own portable TV+video game console systems, but didn’t get very far because they stated that there were so many restrictions and requirements. Finally, our founder went on Facebook and posted on his personal account about his DREAM to provide younger patients confined to their rooms with fun and uplifting video games plus other activities. The next day, a former classmate replied to his post with information about the Gamers Outreach Foundation and their special GO Karts!

Even more amazing: the Gamers Outreach Foundation is based in Michigan and their first GO Kart donation was to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital—the very same hospital where our founder’s passion for volunteering was birthed, while serving there in middle school!

After some further discussions between the founders of both organizations, Cardz for Kidz! had no choice but to agree to pay the full price of $3,500 per GO Kart. To put things in perspective—dating back to our first event in 2010 to where we currently stand in 2017—there have only been THREE times where we’ve received over $3,500 in donations! Still, we will try to purchase at least one GO Kart this year!

The Gamers Outreach Foundation’s GO Karts.

So, with your generous contributions, we’ll be able to not only continue to send cards to children all over the world—from Australia to Ghana to the United States—but also be able to begin donating these GO Karts to some of our partner hospitals that do not have large play rooms or resources for their young patients (see #TooSmallNoSuchThing). At the end of the day, we’re two non-profits that are dedicated to helping uplift the spirits of children. We’re hoping we’ll be able to raise the funds so that, Cardz for Kidz! + the Gamers Outreach Foundation can still be the PERFECT PAIR. We appreciate your donations to help us raise funds for these GO Karts; please support us with your donations on either of these websites:

More information about our fundraiser this summer, Pledge Allegiance, coming soon!

#PerfectPair #UpliftingSpirits

To see more pictures and stories, please check out our website; like us on Facebook; follow us on Twitter and Instagram; visit our Google+ or LinkedIn pages! Also, check out some of our videos on YouTube!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Investing for Good

  • Bobby: “Oh wow, dude did you see her?!?!”
  • Freddie: “Yeah man, but she’s totally out of your league”
Have you ever had or heard of conversations like that? Actually we were googling that quote and were reminded that there’s a movie with a similar title!! Now what does men approaching women have to do with people making cards for disheartened children? Well, it’s not exactly how we’re connecting with the kids, but more how we’ve connected with our NUMBER ONE contributor, Capital One.

It’s interesting because recently we’ve seen a lot of their commercials on television and we know they’re pretty well-known (#whatsinyourwallet). We thought it’d be great if we were able to get them to join in, but weren’t sure how to approach. We figured they were out of our league since we didn’t have many direct contacts like we did with some of the other large companies we’ve worked with such as Google, LinkedIn and QuickenLoans. Still to this day, we recall being extremely excited/shocked when we got the first email from William in Virgina with some pictures of the cards and even a picture of their “top cards.”

For some inside information, we always say, “Every Card Counts,” and yes that’s definitely true. We know where each card is coming from whether that’s the 36 cards that came from our friends at Burtch Works OR the thousands that came from Capital One, they’re all important. One difference is that when  more renowned companies join in, we’re able to say, “groups such as Capital One and Google have all joined in to help us reach over 30,000 kids.” People on the phone or in emails are immediately impressed. So not only are their cards reaching kids, but the company’s prominence is helping us in other ways as well.

Then, if you look at the majority of the large companies we partner with, it’s oftenan individual office or maybe a specific region that’s joining in. With Capital One, it’s not just one! They’ve actually had at least 6 different offices join in and make at least 30 cards! Here’s proof:

That may continue to expand!

In addition, they’ve produced those cards so quickly. In Q4 2016 alone, they produced over 2,000 cards which meant that they moved up from being a Silver participant to Diamond participant overnight!

If you look closely you can see the time in the bottom right of both screens so you know those screenshots were taken back to back – literally overnight!

Finally, another impressive aspect is that they’ve had quantity and quality. If you look on our site you’ll see that Q4 2016 was by far our best quarter ever; we received twice as many cards as ever before. Even with that increased “competition”,  Capital One was able to get one of the OVERALL Top 10 cards(one of their Virginia offices made the Caterpillar card)!

These days based on the advertising you may think of low rates, cash back, Jennifer Garner or Samuel L Jackson when you hear the name Capital One. Or maybe the sponsorships for large events ranging from the College Football Playoffs to the iHeart Radio Music Awards. But with us, we’ll just think about how this company is definitely INVESTING FOR GOOD and making a difference. And this small non-profit is thankful such a large company has taken the time to help us reach children and seniors in small places!

#investingforgood #upliftingspirits

To see more pictures and stories, please check out our website, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, visit our Google+ or LinkedIn page! Also, check out some of our videos on YouTube!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

We're Thankful Too

We’re sorry, but the whole point of this post is to let you know that we’re going to stick to “it”! Thanks to you, we’ve been able to expand a bit and reach new locations. A lot of those places, as well as places that we’ve partnered with before, have been extremely impressed with your cards.

We try to tell our different partners, “it’s OK, don’t worry, you don’t have to take the time and pay for postage to send us the thank you cards”, but as you can see, that hasn’t been working over the years!

Your cards are just too valuable, and they often feel the NEED to say thanks! It started to get so many that we actually created a separate album on our Facebook page that shows just the pics of the Thank You cards, Thank You Messages. That album only includes the pictures of the cards; that doesn’t include the emails, WhatsApp messages, phone calls, or other ways different partners are saying thanks! But if you take a closer look at the notes, a lot of them are addressed directly to us. Some may think, ‘why are you showing off and posting all of those?’ In our minds, those thank yous should actually be addressed to you and here’s why.

As we always say, Every Card Counts, and that even includes the cards that are made by our team and during some of our events. Overall 391 cards have been made during Cardz for Kidz! events. To put that in perspective, that’s less than Capital One’s 2000+, but we’re still in the top 25% of the 100+ groups. For more background, when we agree to partner with a hospital they “pinky promise” to deliver all the cards room to room and we “pinky promise” to get them a set amount of cards at least once a quarter. So if there are some quarters where we’re a bit short on cards, then some of us behind the scenes may have to start making cards. Or, we hold broad events where we’re trying to spread the word and spark some fundraising. 

The way we see it, the staff at the hospitals, shelters, schools and/or homes aren’t thankful that we searched Instagram hashtags to find new groups to partner with, they aren’t ecstatic we were able to complete our Federal 990N form on time all by ourselves, or even that we modified our website and/or wrote blog posts. They’re thankful for the AMAZING homemade cards that we’re able to send them on a consistent basis. 

Now, if you compare the chart above, to the chart on our Donate page, you’ll see that while our production of cards has been decreasing, the total amount of cards we’ve been sending has been drastically increasing. Based on your consistent help, just like the hospitals WE’RE THANKFUL TOO and we’re sorry we’re not able to express it more! Please keep up the amazing work! 

To see more pictures and stories, please check out our website; like us on Facebook; follow us on Twitter and Instagram; visit our Google+ or LinkedIn pages! Also, check out some of our videos on YouTube!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Purple Pride

Hi, my name is Ike Nwankwo and I’ve had seizures…I have epilepsy.

Well, that was another tough admission for me. However, this one was a bit tougher than the prior blog post in which I had to blow my cover about launching Cardz for Kidz! because we’d missed some of our goals—see Secret’s Out. If you look at that post, and the next one, you’ll see that I have opened up before about my brain surgery. But when you read those two blog posts or if you happen to sense a common theme throughout anything where my personal story is the focus, I often refer to epilepsy strictly in the past tense.

I recall even after having my brain surgery, and being on a multitude of medications, that I would always tell myself that I didn’t have epilepsy. I’d always think I simply had “pre-seizures,” not the full grand mal seizures—so it’s different! With that in mind I could sympathize with—but not fully relate to—the children on the 19th floor at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago; the children Cardz for Kidz! partners with at the neurology units at Akron Children’s Hospital AND University Hospitals-Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital; and all the children I connect with on Instagram via hashtags such as #seizuressuck.

You might want to say, “Ike, stop lying. You’ve had a grand mal seizure AND you’ve even watched a recorded episode.” My response would simply be, “See, what had happened was…” But being 100% open and honest, here's the story of that trip in the hospital—when I’m in tough situations, my response is either to laugh or to cry. My tear glands were on strike that day, so all I could was laugh and tell jokes. Due to my declining health and the fact that the meds weren’t working, my new doctors decided I needed to have an updated in-patient EEG. During that week, they took me off all my medications in order to trigger as many seizures as possible; thankfully, I quickly bonded with all the nurses and staff in charge of my care. A bit later there was a big blank spot in my memory. Later my nurse (and "friend") came in; she told me I “had a bad one” and then asked if I wanted to watch it. I agreed and watched myself have my first-ever grand mal seizure. On that tape I saw my mom, who was in the room, stand up and run over to me in fear. My response as I watched myself was: “See what had happened was, I wasn’t on any medications. So, I don’t have real epilepsy like the children I volunteer with.”

Honestly (and my sincerest apologies to our friends at @elijahs_fight on Instagram), I was being completely selfish and that’s why I didn’t share the picture below on the Cardz for Kidz! Instagram account. I figured since there was some concern about how my epilepsy would have impacted my previous job, I should hide my condition while searching for a new position. [Side note: I hope Elijah’s enjoying himself with the angels.]

Then again, these days, there’s no room for excuses. I’m currently employed and the University of Michigan Health System plans to write a blog post about my medical condition. Still, I modified some of the Instagram posts that directly focused on my epilepsy/seizures.

Original version:

Cardz for Kidz! version:

Although there are other Ike Nwankwos out there, I still felt the need to modify their words and remove my last name—due to another (earlier) post stating, “Ike Nwankwo wrote Jaxon a very special note about how he had #seizures and to stay strong!” I should be proud that it’s helping uplift children.

In light of Epilepsy Awareness Day being Sunday, March 26th, I’m going to be even more open. Being brutally honest with you, I’m definitely not thankful to have this condition; however, I’m proud that so far I’ve been able to overcome it, in addition to the progress I’ve made in all aspects of my life.

I recall back in high school I used to play football; at the end of practice, or after different games, we would huddle up and get hyped together. Being one of the varsity team’s captains, I oftentimes got to lead our chant(s). How it worked was I, or another leader, would shout “PURPLE!” and everyone else would yell “PRIDE!” That’d go back and forth, back and forth until we broke it down and celebrated together. Even though all of us with epilepsy aren’t gathered in one place, wearing the same uniform, I believe we should all still proudly proclaim “PURPLE PRIDE!” since we’re effectively overcoming this neurological disorder. My name is Ikedichi J. Nwankwo and I am proudly overcoming epilepsy!

All week long I wore purple and I’ll definitely wear purple during my volunteer shift at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago this Sunday, March 26th—in honor of Epilepsy Awareness Day.

Also, if you look closely at this picture, you’ll see my love of homemade artwork and working with kids is nothing new!!!

FYI - purple for epilepsy similar to pink for breast cancer.

To see more pictures and stories, please check out our; like us on Facebook; follow us on Twitter and Instagram; visit our Google+ or LinkedIn pages! Also, check out some of our videos onYouTube!