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Cards for Hospitalized Kids founder Jen Rubino
For all of her life, Jen Rubino had been a gymnast and she was well on her way to becoming a high level gymnast until she began suffering from chronic health problems at age 11.
While most teens would have curled up in their room and chosen to give up on life, Jen has done the opposite. She has continued on in life and made her new mission in life to help others facing health problems, which is why she founded Cards for Hospitalized Kids, a charitable organization that makes cards for hospitalized kids across America. Cards for Hospitalized Kids has given out hundreds of cards and even some celebrities and professional athletes have gotten involved with the organization.
Q: When did your health problems start?
A: My health problems started in 2006, when I was 11. I began having pain throughout my body. I was a gymnast at the time and assumed it was a sports injury. However, my health went downhill fast and my doctors determined that it was definitely not a sports injury. I’ve had 13 surgeries and I am awaiting a bone transplant.
Q: How did your health problems change your life?
A: The hardest thing about living with any disease-whether it’s cancer, cystic fibrosis or any other type of disease- is that the disease has control of your life and you don’t. My health problems took away my ability to do the thing I loved the most, which was gymnastics. From the time I was four until I was 11, I was a gymnast. Gymnastics was my life. My dad was a gymnast, my best friends were gymnasts and all my heroes were gymnasts. Once I couldn’t do gymnastics anymore, I had to basically start my life all over again.
I also started missing out on many of the little things in life that most kids take for granted, like being able to go to school or go to dances. This was very hard to deal with.
Q: What inspired you to start Cards for Hospitalized Kids?
A: My own experience as a patient inspired me to start Cards for Hospitalized Kids. When I began treatment, I kept telling myself that all the pain I was experiencing couldn’t be for nothing. I always knew that I was going to help other people facing chronic and life-threatening health issues; I just didn’t know how I was going to do it. I now know how I’m going to do it- it’s through Cards for Hospitalized Kids.
Q: How did the idea of Cards for Hospitalized Kids arise?
A: I underwent major surgery last February. I was in enormous amounts of pain; I was in the ICU and could barely do anything. During the recovery, people started sending me cards. While I appreciated the cards, I felt that others needed the cards more than me and I sent the cards to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Children’s Memorial Hospital and this is how I came up with the idea of Cards for Hospitalized Kids. Everything just took off from there.
Q: What is the mission of Cards for Hospitalized Kids?
A: When kids are sick, they feel isolated because their sense of normalcy is gone and our mission is to show them that they aren’t forgotten. We want to give kids hope, joy and magic through cards.
Q: Celebrities and professional athletes have gotten involved with Cards for Hospitalized Kids. Does this surprise you?
A: Yes. I never thought that celebrities and athletes would be involved with us but it has been wonderful. Their involvement helps take the organization to a new level and helps us reach more kids.
Q: Has there been a moment that you realized how big of a difference you are making through Cards for Hospitalized Kids?
A: Yes. The moment came a couple of weeks ago when I got an email from the mom of an 8 year old cancer patient at Dayton Children’s Hospital in Ohio. She sent me a picture of her son with a card from us and she went on and on about how the card made her child so happy and she told me that I was inspiring her son to keep fighting. For me, this was when I realized that I am making a difference.
Q: Do you have any advice for teens who want to give back but feel they can’t make a difference?
A: As cliché as it sounds, no act of kindness is too small. Cards for Hospitalized Kids started out with one kid receiving a card and now kids across the country are receiving cards. Anyone can make a difference as long as they make an effort.
At a time when so many Americans are struggling, it is more important than ever to give back and be thankful. Everyone needs to make an effort to give back and help others.
Q: Who can get involved with Cards for Hospitalized Kids?
A: Anyone can get involved with Cards for Hospitalized Kids. To learn more about Cards for Hospitalized Kids or to get involved visit the website, Facebook page or Twitter. Here are the links: