100% Open and Honest. Whenever I have discussions with people about Cardz for Kidz, they’re usually impressed. What I always tell them is that it’s an organization that I accidentally started on purpose. When I originally asked kids from my church and coworkers to make cards for kids at the local hospital, I didn’t plan for it to grow to the point where we’d reach people of all ages, let alone people of all ages across the globe.
Now if people ask how I grew this organization and how I envisioned it expanding, I think of my trip to Our Clubhouse in PA for a donation of the entertainment system. During that trip I noticed that the people of Pittsburgh, PA were IMMENSELY proud of their city and what they’ve produced. That ranges from the Pittsburgh Steelers to Mr. Rogers. There were huge billboards of their icons and people were all very friendly.
Things have changed recently, but I can agree with those Pittsburgh folks. I’m proud of my local area here in Chicago and that’s our baseline. Cardz for Kidz has grown to reach people of all ages across the globe, but this all started due to my immediate neighborhood. To be more precise, it’s because of some trips to my old gym in my neighborhood.
The gym has changed, but this is what it used to look like when Cardz for Kidz started to grow.
Now, here’s the 100% Open and Honest part. Firstly, I’m out of shape! I know it would take me a lot longer to complete this run these days. Secondly, the local area has been growing recently, so not all these places were there when I originally started running or we started making these deliveries, but it’s interesting.
I won’t start this trip out at our global headquarters, aka my condo, but instead I’ll start nearby during the walk to the gym – the Ashland and Madison intersection. Here’s the story of how we grew to reach people across the globe:
- Salvation Army: I would always walk by this location on my way to the gym and noticed the Salvation Army logo. I immediately thought of when, as a kid, I went to the Salvation Army Day Camp. Therefore, I assumed this building had kids there in the summer, but one time before visiting the gym I stopped by and learned I was wrong. This location was a senior living location. I connected with the house manager and later we agreed that their seniors would make cards for us, and we would also donate some of the cards made by children to their residents (#CardzFROMKidz).
- Ronald McDonald House Charities: On warm days, I’d begin the run around the neighborhood. The first place I’d pass would be McDonald’s global headquarters, home of Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) (#familiestoo). Currently, we’re partnering with over 35+ different RMHCs in 10 different countries. We’ve been using the cards to encourage both the families, patients, and staff.
- Google: The next spot in the run, after having passed Lake Street in the West Loop, was the Google Chicago office. We wrote about it before, but Google has been helpful in many ways. One way people find us is by searching for different keywords on Google.com and that has been helpful, but we can’t directly connect that to this run. The other way is how Google employees across the country (and currently globe) have made cards and donated. This global participation was all sparked by the office during the run. One contact was the one who told us about the giving platform which helped us connect with many other global corporations (including our ‘Secret Admirer’ ).
- Delivery Location – UPS: To be honest, it usually didn’t go this long, but I’ll extend it now, so EVERYTHING is included. After passing Google, running through the back streets until I got to Grand Ave and heading west, I got to the Ogden and Grand intersection. That’s where our UPS mailbox is now located. Now does it make sense why we moved from our location downtown to 516 N Ogden?
- Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly (LBFE): Heading west, until I got to Ashland again. Then I started heading south. What happened during this part of the run is that I would always get tired. For a while I kept running and would see a building that said Little Brothers___. I just noticed the first part of the sign and realized at some point I should stop by to see if they wanted cards for those young brothers. One day after the run I cleaned up and stopped by – I don’t know why I didn’t use another neighbor, Google.com, to learn more. After stopping by, I got a quick explanation about their nonprofit, but we agreed that encouraging cards could be helpful. With the start of the run and the finish, I originally decided that we’d give cards made by children to seniors. Thankfully, as we’ve expanded, now seniors get cards made by people of all ages. Our connection was sparked based on the trip down Ashland. Our pals at LBFE Chicago connected us to their San Francisco team as well and we’re now sending them 600 cards each quarter!
- Illinois Medical District: Sticking to Ashland I would run past the start all the way down to the highway and to the cusp of the Illinois Medical District. Over the years we delivered cards to 3 distinct hospitals within that area – over 3,000 cards with no more than 50 cards per delivery. Currently, we’re sending cards to one of our top partners, University Health. I told you about our contact Dana before and she’s the main reason we still have a partnership in that portion of the neighborhood. With this it’s clear that we’re sending cards and entertainment systems to pediatric patients.
- P.S. I walked over to hand over the iPads, but I did drive over when I delivered the entertainment system).
- Whitney Young & Chicago Police Department: Turn around on Ashland and finish the run down Jackson Street. I love how calm it is. I try to “sprint” the last leg which ends on the street before Whitney Young High School. Once that’s completed, I walk past Whitney Young and by the police station. Now what does this have to do with Cardz for Kidz? Nothing – yet. I’ve reached out to Whitney Young and Michelle Obama, but no response (donated entertainment systems to hospitals/nonprofits down the street from Michelle and Barak Obama’s High Schools – Honolulu and Chicago). Thankfully, we’ve received cards from Lane Tech and Walter Payton, but not Whitney Young just yet. Ideally, I’d be able to drive over to Whitney Young or the Police Department and either of those locations would be willing to help us with the behind-the-scenes volunteering. (Yes, drive. Only because I’d be carrying so many boxes.)
That doesn’t include some of the other options we’ve reached out to such as the West Loop branch of the Chicago Public Library on Aberdeen that we contacted several times. We’re going to start having some volunteers help count cards in their rooms when they open again. Or how I use the FedEx located in the same building as McDonald’s to ship most of our international packages.
Nowadays we’ve delivered over 200,000 cards to people around the world. We have at least 2 partnerships in each state (Washington D.C., don’t worry… We’re working on our second), and one in each continent around the world. We’ve been collecting cards from several of the top global corporations, universities, and most prominent nonprofits. If you visit the bottom of our donate page, you’ll see we’re growing.
If I were to limit Cardz for Kidz to what was coming from my neighborhood, you can see that it includes people of all ages overcoming a variety of conditions, impacted patients and families around the world, as well as all types of groups ranging from global corporations to schools. As mentioned before, I loved my trip to Pittsburgh, and I guess I’ll have to agree with Mr. Rogers by saying I’m thankful for those beautiful days IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD that helped us expand. I used this proximity to make a global impact.
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