Cards for Hospitalized Children celebrates its 10th anniversary.

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A 17-year-old high school student who attended Maine South High School in Park Ridge was at Lurie Children’s Hospital in 2012 to receive hip reconstruction – her 16th surgery in a battle to overcome a childhood illness that didn’t still has no official name. , and it is not fully understood.

As she slept, a hospital volunteer left an anonymous greeting card encouraging her to “stay strong”.

Jen Rubino was so inspired by the gesture that she started creating her own similar cards for other people in the same situation.

Today, a decade later, Rubino celebrates the 10th anniversary of the founding of Cards For Hospitalized Kids, which has already distributed hundreds of thousands of anonymous greeting cards to distressed children across Chicagoland and in all 50 states.

“I still have this card on my desk at home,” Rubino said. “I knew about handmade cards like this, but receiving one and knowing that someone took the time to make the card brought me strength and smiles for what I had been through. It really meant a lot.

Rubino’s hopes of becoming an Olympic gymnast were cut short when, at age 11, she started experiencing pain in her wrist. She was eventually hospitalized and began having multiple surgeries for what doctors called a childhood bone and connective tissue disorder.

“Fortunately, as I stopped growing, my health started to improve,” she said. “Doctors at the Mayo Clinic and Lurie Children’s concluded that I had a misunderstood childhood illness. They are still doing a lot of research on the disorder.

As soon as he was released from the hospital, Rubino began getting together with friends to create anonymous greeting cards for hospitalized children.

“We started holding monthly card-making events at the Des Plaines Public Library,” she said. “People heard about it, and pretty soon it got to as many as the room could hold, like 30 or 40 people. That’s when we expanded the program to more libraries.

Eventually, the process of making anonymous cards outgrew what libraries could provide, Rubino explained.

“That’s when I started looking at it as a charity and getting people to make maps on their own, not just at the library,” he said. she declared.

the Rubino website, CardsForHospitalizedKids.comprovides links to help visitors learn the requirements for crafting homemade cards.

For example, all you need is paper and a writing instrument such as a colored marker, pen or pencil. Stickers or other craft supplies can be used. According to the website, excessive glitter, or anything that can fall off a card, is discouraged, due to the health issues of some hospital patients.

As for the wording of the card, it must be addressed “hey there” or “to a very special person” because the possible recipient of the card is not known.

Hospitals also recommend encouraging words like “stay strong” and “you’re awesome” rather than disease-related comments like “get well soon” or “feel better” because some young patients suffer from chronic or terminal illnesses. .

After being created, the cards should be mailed to the CFHK office for sorting. A variety of cards – some made by children and some made by adults – are then sent to one of many facilities such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Ann & Robert H Children’s Hospital, Chicago Lurie or one of the hundreds of Ronald McDonald House Charities locations.

“We congratulate Cards For Hospitalized Kids on its tenth anniversary,” Julianne Bardele, associate director of public affairs at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, said in a statement. “They are a source of inspiration and hope for children and families when they need it most and we are grateful to extend these words of encouragement and comfort to our patient families. Jen knows firsthand how much impact a positive message can have.

Rubino’s former gymnastics coach also weighed in.

“Jen was a gymnast at the American Academy of Gymnastics, and she always worked hard,” owner Kurt Waller said. “It was hard to watch her suffer from her connective tissue disorder but, despite this ordeal, we knew Jen would prevail. The creation of her foundation and the work she does is a testament to her character.

Without paid employees, CFHK did not need to become a 501c(3) tax-exempt organization, Rubino said.

“We decided not to become a non-profit organization because there are several legal requirements,” she said. “We get a lot of private support and sometimes donations of card making materials.”

Various Target and Kohl stores across the country made donations as well as Inside Gymnastics magazine, which donated thousands of dollars in mail-in supplies, Rubino said.

“With me as a gymnast, we started having real Olympic gymnasts supporting the cause,” she said.

For example, autographed cards and photos were donated by Olympic athletes Aly Raisman, Shannon Miller and a dozen others.

Among the many famous card designers are singers Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga, as well as TV stars Lauren Conrad and Lucy Hale.

“People have asked why I’m still doing this, after 10 years, and it’s because it’s so fulfilling and means so much to me, helping others,” Rubino said. “The cards seem very simple, but they really have a big impact on children and their families. Even if you don’t meet the dealer, one card still makes a big difference.

For more information, visit www.cardsforhospitalizedkids.com or visit the organization on Facebook.


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