How Two Teenagers Helped Retiree Find A New Purpose
Robin Ryan Contributor
Most high schools require community service hours and for Madaleine Murphy getting into the Honor Society meant donating 60 hours each year beginning in 2020. But the Covid pandemic eliminated most in-person options, so Murphy started researching other ways to help others. She came across an opportunity to create handmade greeting cards for sick kids in Boston hospitals. This idea resonated with her. Murphy, who lives in Texas, said, “I saw the chance to do something that would bring a smile into a child’s day, and that was so important to me. I hated being isolated and in quarantine, but I thought about how much more difficult it was for a child in a hospital with few, if any, visitors. So, I began making cards for Send A Smile 4 Kids, a volunteer program located in Boston. This organization then distributes the handmade cards to sick children in the hospital.”
Murphy loved the artistic part of creating handmade personalized cards. As she started, she thought about her retired grandmother, Barbara Cooper, who had recently come to live with them and moved from Canada. “I witnessed my grandma’s battle with mental health like most others, and I was also struggling with the pandemic isolation. So, I asked my grandma to help me. She sat right down next to me, and we created cards together.”
Cooper stated, “COVID was hard on me emotionally and mentally. However, card-making gave me the chance to spend quality time that I cherished with my granddaughter, and it also gave me a new hobby. It was so important that we send heartfelt messages to strangers who need to know there are people like us who care.” Murphy noted, “In a world of fear and unknown, card making became our mission. We would work on cards and letters together for hours at a time. For my grandma, card making gave her a new purpose: spending time with me spreading kindness.”
As the months went on, Murphy decided she wanted to expand this service and bring it to people in Texas, where she lived. Sebastian Kravutske asked to join her in the effort. Since creating artistic cards is somewhat atypical for a big sports guy, Kravutske shared his reason for getting involved. “I know what it is like to be a child in a hospital. I also endured watching my mom go through multiple different cancer treatments. The little things can make the biggest difference in those hospital rooms. I firmly believe that laughter and smiles are remedies to any suffering, and we do that through our card service.”
Murphy and Kravutske are very busy teenagers so carving out the time for card making is a serious commitment. They balance their service time with taking several AP classes and participating in school activities and sports. Together, they and Grandma Cooper have made over 2000 customized cards delivered to sick children. With the desire to serve suffering children and seniors in nursing homes locally, Miracles of Kindness was born. Kravutske said, “I could empathize with how scared a child in the hospital can feel. This opportunity to create and scale a new service business motivated me. Murphy added, “Creating happy cards that would bring a little bit of joy to a sick kid or someone in a nursing home face is so meaningful to me.” So, the two began to build a service charity they hope will one day become a nonprofit.
Thinking about creating a business and actually doing it are two different things. First, they had to research and identify local hospitals and nursing homes. With Covid restrictions, many could not accept their cards. Once they established a few organizations to serve, the next big obstacle was the need to create a high volume of cards. “You can never have enough,” said Murphy. To solve this problem, they recruited a few other students and worked with a teacher to get approval for those students to receive community service hours for their efforts. In addition, the website outlines how others can join them and make handmade cards that Miracles of Kindness will distribute.
Card-making materials like paper, stickers, design pieces and stamps, ink, and colored markers can be expensive. Their solution was to collect and recycle old cards, often just using the front cover to help make a new, personalized one. They used social media to make requests, and donations poured in.
Tips for setting up a similar service organization locally
Murphy and Kravutske had some great strategies to create your own service business, like Miracles of Kindness.
Conduct comprehensive market research. Check out local hospitals, senior facilities, foster care centers, or any organization you wish to support. It could be women’s shelters, homeless shelters, or you’re the local Ronald McDonald house.
Make contact. Review with the organization’s donation webpages. Find the contact email to the donation coordinator, then reach out to them and tell them you would love to create cards for their organization. Determine their requirements. Do they want the cards to be blank inside, or are you writing directly to the patient and using their name? Be sure to confirm any rules the organization has for accepting these donations.
Types of cards to make. Most senior facilities love birthday cards. Make these and add a special happy birthday message, and sign it with just your first name. Give them to your local senior center or senior living community. Hospitals often want funny or inspiring caring cards. Before you create any cards, learn what the specific types are that the organization wants.
Best way to deliver the cards. Most places have strict restrictions on visitors. Mailing is ideal; you can serve more organizations locally, in your state, or nationwide.
With serving others as the driving force for these teens and Grandma Cooper, it’s noteworthy that understand that these compassionate young people have lofty career goals they will undoubtedly achieve. Murphy plans to become a pediatric psychiatrist, and Kravutske intends to one day be an entrepreneur with his own business. Both high schoolers have demonstrated what two people can do with a big giving heart and the commitment to making an impactful difference to people who need an act of kindness. Cooper says, “When you begin to think about serving others, a retired person like myself can find a new purpose. Through helping others, we also brought more meaning to our own lives.”