Southern Middle School Students Hope to Brighten Holidays of Hospitalized Kids

Nov 23, 2016

Don’t you hate it when stores start playing Christmas music right after Halloween? True, there is a shortage of Thanksgiving songs – you can’t play Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant” on a continuous loop. Still, it seems to be pushing the Christmas envelope more than a little.

And what about those Christmas displays that start even before the Halloween decorations have been put away? Come on already!

But it is sometimes good to get ahead of the Christmas curve. It is good, for example, that the Southern Regional Middle School Student Council and members of the school’s SHOP (Students Helping Other Peers) are already gearing up to participate in a Cards for Hospitalized Kids event this coming December.

They’ll be making handmade holiday cards to be sent to children who are being treated in hospitals during the holiday season – not the best way to spend the holidays, for sure. It is an example of what the student council and the SHOP club try to do all year, to come together to use their leadership skills to show how small acts of kindness can go a long way.

Cards for Hospitalized Kids, headquartered in Chicago, was founded by Jen Rubino, somebody who definitely has used her leadership skills to commit small acts of kindness. Only her small acts turned out to be a huge act.

Rubino was an 11-year-old competitive gymnast in 2006 when she started feeling pain. She figured it was a sports-related injury. Instead it turned out to be a connective tissue and bone disease that has since required over 20 surgeries.

“My experiences in the hospital have shown me how difficult it is to be a child or teen who is hospitalized and/or seriously ill,” she said. “Hospitalized kids often feel forgotten, sad, lonely and isolated. They also miss out on many of the little things in life that most children take for granted, like having lunch with friends or having sleepovers.

“There was one specific hospital stay that was very difficult for me. It was in February 2011, and I was recovering from a major surgery where doctors had to break my hip in five places and then completely reconstruct and reposition it. I was in extreme pain, had lost a lot of blood and not doing well. I so badly just wanted to go back to school, hang out with friends and be a normal kid. During that very difficult time, I received a handmade card from a hospital volunteer that really brightened my day; I founded CFHK to do that for other kids.”

Over 100,000 kids in hospitals and Ronald McDonald Houses in all 50 states and the District of Columbia have received handmade cards during their hospitalization in the past five years thanks to the organization.

Rubino is now a student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., but she continues to oversee CFHK operations. She’s also a living example of getting back what you give – Rubino is the recipient of a Daily Point of Light Award, signed by former President George H.W. Bush, and a Prudential Spirit of Community Award from Prudential Financial. Her efforts have also been officially recognized by the Illinois House of Representatives. —R.M.

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