Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Real Super Hero

After a trip to one of the “campuses,” we wanted to make it official with our signature 100% Open and Honest blog posts. But with this one, let’s switch it up. Although the board is being organized and we have all types of vital contributors, this was more of an executive decision. Therefore, this blog post will strictly be in first person, I…ke.

What’s one thing you see in common with both of these pictures?

The answer is that in both of these pictures I was surrounded by family. As touched on in the Families Too blog post, during my most trying time I thankfully had plenty of support. Based on my experience, I feel the amount of support can make a huge difference.

Originally when I was thinking of expanding and reaching more than hospitals, I figured we’d connect with more Ronald McDonald Houses. I understand that these health conditions are terribly trying on families as well, so it’s important that we encourage those patients, families and siblings too. So far it’s been working. We’ve sent over 13,000 cards to Ronald McDonald Houses around the world and have an official partnership with 20+ different locations in at least eight different countries.

Thanks to you we’re helping me reach my passion point of reaching kids and families who are going through some of their toughest times. We’re sending cards to hospitals and helping uplift the spirits of kids and families there. We’re sending cards to Ronald McDonald Houses, too, and reaching the entire family. Overall, helping accomplish my goal of reaching families in addition to the patients. In my experience as a patient, I’ve seen the utmost importance of families. Over my 20 years of volunteering here are some of my most memorable experiences:
  • All Done. That seizure was the most touching. You can read that blog post to get the full story. The other day I was connecting with Paige – that’s her real name and she confirmed she still has this picture. 

  • Towards the end of one of my volunteer shifts going around and delivering cards, I was explaining to a grandmother and patient that I was bringing these cards for them and hearing the woman say something like, “Thank you. Thank you. This is just what we needed right now.”
  • Tired at the end of another shift dropping off cards in the NICU, I noticed on my way out a family holding up their baby to pose in the picture with their new cards.

Similar to the pictures above, the one constant with all those stories is family. Based on my EEG experience I make sure all the hospitals/homes pinky promise to deliver the cards room to room so the kids who are confined to their rooms and/or beds can be encouraged as well. That confinement can be sparked by their condition OR because they don’t have anyone to escort them down to the playroom to go get cards.

With some of the kids in the hospital, them being alone in the hospital/lacking an escort could simply be temporary similar to my first EEG, #CantComplain. Maybe their parents are at work or maybe it’s flu season and their siblings can’t come to the hospital, so their parents are with their siblings. Then again, what about some of the kids who are alone for more than a few hours? Days, months or potentially years? What about kids who are either orphans and/or recently put into the foster care system? Although they’re not necessarily a pediatric patient, we believe they deserve to be uplifted. With that in mind, I’m going to ask the team continue to reach out to hospitals around the world and make sure we consistently reach out to Ronald McDonald Houses, but would LOVE if we all worked together to help reach significantly more Foster Homes and Orphanages that you know have children who could use some cards.

During the walk around the campus it was disheartening/inspiring to hear the story of what some of these kids have gone through. For example, how there was one child who has been going in and out of care for 10+ years, how there was another child who was intentionally burned over 75% of their body, how the orphange got several new boys right before Christmas, and many other stories. We’d like to reach these kids directly if they were in happy homes, but even more so with the fact that they’re not living with family and could feel alone. 

Wow. I can’t complain. With those types of stories I realized that I don’t have to worry about us making any changes to our mission statement (#NoMoreChanges).

“Cardz for Kidz! is an organization dedicated to uplifting the spirits of hospitalized and/or traumatized children across the globe by delivering inspiring homemade cards.”

Based on one of the recent changes, I think we're covered. I can't imagine something more traumatizing than needing to be pulled and/or losing your family and living in a separate location without loved ones, no matter how nice that location is set up. Our goal will be to help contribute and make that transition as positive as possible. 

Also, not as important, but I already double checked with our friends at Gamers Outreach. They originally created their systems strictly for pediatric hospitals, but they agreed that we could donate some of those to these homes if we’d like. During the tour of Methodist Children’s Home they showed us they had one game room. We would love to make sure that all of the locations we partnered with have at least one of these gaming systems as a way to reward their children for completing their homework and other responsibilities. And don’t worry, we talked it out. For the children’s safety some of the parent’s don’t know where the children are currently located so the homes can’t take pictures of the children’s faces. How it works is that similar to our picture of the patient in Israel they could take a picture of the back of the child OR simply a picture of the staff.  

After we completed the tour of the “campus” with Erin, we were chatting about the future expansion of their program. She noted how they want to start a trade school and what they were looking to do for some of the young men who aged out of their foster program. She also explained how a lot of the large children’s hospitals can get celebrities to help them advertise and ask for donations, but it’s a lot harder for orphanages. I was told that both celebrities and private individuals are less willing to associate with these type of organizations/homes.  

It’s amazing what she’s doing and we’ll definitely make this a prime focus this year. Thinking about how those kids who are overcoming those conditions, definitely are superheroes. Then it clicked to me. Two of the top superheroes of all time, Batman and Spiderman; Bruce Wayne and Peter Parker. Sure they had a lot of things in common ranging from saving the world to special outfits, but another thing in common is how they lost both of their parents. Now, I understand sending some handmade cards isn’t going to make the next caped crusader, but I do believe that by investing our time by giving these cards and showing support/love to these kids will help inspire and, possibly help produce, a REALSUPER HERO” that we experience in our day to day lives, rather than something strictly in comic books. Thankfully we had a Spiderman card to drop off that day!

#realsuperhero #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! 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Meant to Be

Lucky? Blessed? Special? However you look at it, we want to tell you about this upcoming weekend at the Chicago Volunteer Expo and why we’re very excited.

We’ve touched on it a couple times; however, as a reminder, here’s a brief recap on the establishment of Cardz for Kidz!. In the beginning, it was just a group of children from church making cards for patients at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago (known as Children’s Memorial at that time). Presently, we’ve expanded a lot and nearly 300 groups have made cards for disheartened children and solemn seniors in over 35 countries.

We’re believing that after this year’s Chicago Volunteer Expo, these numbers will all grow exponentially. What’s so exciting about this year’s event is that we’re going to have an even larger space, attendees will be directed towards our area, and more people will be encouraged to make cards throughout the event. We were told we’d also have a table to recruit volunteers, explain the mission of our organization AND a bigger space for people to make cards on the spot. Based on last year’s participation, we’re sure this year’s event will help move the Chicago Volunteer Expo up a level on our website:

We guess what makes 2019 so much more exciting was how last year worked out so perfectly. Here’s the story.

We still don’t remember exactly how we first heard about the Chicago Volunteer Expo (maybe from a Facebook ad, through word-of-mouth, or some other way). Somehow, we connected; we applied, made a small donation, and then we were selected to be one of the featured nonprofits. We were told about the anticipated number of people who would attend the event, and the renowned fellow nonprofits also participating—to be honest, we were a bit nervous. Thankfully, the Vice President was able to get a sign made for us, and we made handouts as well as t-shirts.

Our goal was to spread the word and get as many people to start making cards as possible. Originally, the plan was just to bring in the “Thank You” cards we’ve received from the hospitals so attendees could see how grateful they were for the cards. At the last second, our founder decided to grab a few art supplies, thinking that maybe if people made cards at the event they could see how fun it was and want to make more cards at home. Then, during the setup—before the event started—as we were laying out the supplies and our flyers on our half of the table (the setup was two organizations per table), another nonprofit a few tables away called us over. They told us that their tablemates never showed up and they didn’t need a full table. They asked us if we wanted to switch locations, since we also had art supplies. PERFECT. BLESSED.

What would have been a tight a squeeze ended up working out nicely. Based on that last-second decision to grab art supplies, and the kindness of another nonprofit, we got a full table to ourselves AND attendees would have the opportunity to make cards.

Throughout the event, families and attendees stopped by, made cards and talked with us about Cardz for Kidz!. People loved that they were able to participate on the spot. Overall, we received a total of 71 cards for our children and there were even cards in a variety of languages. One person stopped by afterwards and told us that we were their favorite nonprofit at the event since they got to volunteer that day. Here are some pictures of the fun times.

Wow, 2018 was a great success—it’s hard to imagine it’d be possible to top that. There are many groups who have since reached out to us and told us that they started making cards and hosting events since they heard about us at last year’s Chicago Volunteer Expo. Wow! So, we started to prep and plan for 2019, seeing if there was anything we needed to change (e.g., using glitter markers because glitter glue takes too long to dry). Then, we got an email from the Chicago Volunteer Expo that made things even more exciting. For 2019, we are going to be one of the highlighted nonprofits and they’re going to try to send everyone our way to do some speed volunteering and make a card. That means we’ll be able to do some much-needed recruiting for behind-the-scenes volunteers, as well as (hopefully) receive cards in many languages.

It’s amazing how our founder’s last-second decision to bring art supplies, plus a nonprofit not showing up, led to us not only getting a larger table, but also let us see how much people enjoyed being able to make cards on the spot. Everything is working out perfectly. We won’t even get into how it turns out this year’s volunteers for the event happen to be a professional project manager, one of the founder’s favorite artists, and an enthusiastic Spanish-speaking volunteer! The 2018 Chicago Volunteer Expo was spectacular, and we’re thinking that 2019 will be even better since clearly this was all MEANT TO BE. Hmmmm… Since they’re supplying the art supplies for us, we’ll have to think of what we should grab last second that might be a game changer! 

#meanttobe #upliftingspirits

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Sunday, February 3, 2019

Microsoft’s Office

When you think of the most wealthy people in the world, who comes to mind? Although there’s been a shift in the top 1% based on Amazon’s rise, we have a feeling that Bill Gates comes to mind. So what does it take to be one of the wealthiest people in the world? You have to be strategic and daring. For example, Jeff Bezos started selling books online when Borders and Barnes & Noble were dominating the market. He then expanded on that and now Amazon sells all types of products. As for Bill Gates, he originally started with creating computer software which has now grown into one of the largest global businesses across many different fields such as Software (Microsoft Office), Gaming (Microsoft X-Box), Search (Bing), and more. If you strictly look at Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos right now in terms of their overall wealth, you’d see that based on the stock prices and how Amazon has grown, that Jeff Bezos is the richest person in the world.

We know he’s got the most wealth, but we’re not sure if he’s making the largest impact on the globe.

One thing that’s particulary impressive about Bill Gates is how much he’s dedicated to giving back. Something we may have all heard before is how he started the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. After checking their site and some follow ups on Wikipedia, we found that the Gates have given billions to help people in need, This foundation has given back by enhancing healthcare and improving access to information technology, among other important things. With that in mind we can clearly see the data for the worth/wealth of Gates and Bezos, but in our opinion their overall value on society differs.

So now we’ve all heard about what one of the most wealthy and caring individuals has done as a whole, but we have some more behind the scenes information to divulge. We need to tell you why it’s VERY different from some of the broad PR information or top of the line tweets that you may be seeing.

As mentioned in our tweet above, Microsoft has donated over a billion dollars to nonprofits, but what’s even more valuable is that they’ve donated their time. In our eyes, what’s even more distinct is that they’ve done it proudly!

In Q4 2018, we thankfully received our largest financial contribution from Microsoft. We reached out to some of our contacts and let them know they’re currently on their way to sponsoring a GO Kart as our way of rewarding a hospital for being a great partner with their cards. Here are some of the key ways that Microsoft displayed their overall worth for us that quarter:  

Time – Over the years we received cards from multiple stores, but in Q4 2018 we received cards from one of their main offices in Chicago. We were updated about how they encouraged employees to set aside time throughout the week to volunteer.

Dollars – At a time when we’re trying to raise funds to purchase Xboxes and other gaming systems for our hospitals/homes, they donated money to help raise the necessary funds for our kids.

Proudly – Now we’re going to be 100% open and honest. Whenever we’re writing these blog posts we have to provide ALL the background and give you ALL the information as our way of saying thanks for taking the time to review and learn more about our organization. Here’s that truth. This whole blog post is talking about how Microsoft is one of the greatest groups and how much of a difference they’ve made. If you look directly at the numbers from November, you could see that just like in the first paragraph where Bill Gates is #2, Microsoft was #2 in terms of the dollars donated.

This was Microsoft’s peak and our Secret Admirer donated about $400 more. Now an outsider could look at that and focus on the difference in dollars when they compare the impact, but for us, we can say that with these two world renowned companies, it’s amazing to look at the difference on how they’re willing to be associated with our organization. We’ll forever be thankful for Secret Admirer, but since they made us sign a form that we wouldn’t mention their name we’ll look at them a bit differently. With Microsoft, they’re making cards, taking pictures, and are proudly allowing us to post their world renowned logo up on our website. 

(As of Q3 2018 - the Microsoft logo is moving up after their Q4 participation)

We’re thankful for their contributions’ value and worth!

On a separate note, groups often reach out and ask us about where we send and/or receive  cards. Thanks to detailed formulas we keep in Excel, we’re able to easily answer those questions. That way we can keep track of how to update our Participants tab and we’ll know where we need to donate our next GO Kart. Now this may sound odd, but when we look at…
  • Where some of our donations came from,
  • where we’re getting a set of our cards from,
  • and how we’re keeping track of everything,

…we can answer all of those questions and get that assistance thanks to the help of “MICROSOFT OFFICE” – whether that’s the company or the software and that’s something we won’t forget! 

#microsoftsoffice #upliftingspirits

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