At some point in the months following this, I noticed that a Facebook friend "liked" an organization named Project C.U.R.E. based here in Colorado (in Centennial, near Denver) that procures surplus medical supplies and sends them to 139 countries that desperately need them. I looked over the website a bit and immediately emailed Megan Prentice, the name I saw as a contact in the volunteer section of the website, and told her about Raising Little Heroes and asked if there was something our group could do to support their work. Megan wrote me back right away telling me that although our kids are too young to help out in the warehouse, they are the perfect age to help with their Kits for Kids program. Basically, you pick up empty kit bags from the warehouse and fill them with items from a supply list and then return them to the warehouse to be shipped overseas to communities that need basic medicine cabinet items. I agreed that the project sounded perfect for our group and I put it right on our calendar for the following month.
I knew we could pull this project off but also knew that it was going to take some creative thinking and planning. Although many of the items on the supply list can be found at the dollar store, gathering the items would involve money--something I usually try to avoid while planning these projects. Part of my vision for the group is that anyone, regardless of their financial situation, should be able to participate. I don't want anyone opting out of a project because they don't have cash because that is something that happens to me ALL THE TIME. In addition to the items, each kit had to be accompanied by a $5 donation to cover shipping costs. So, I wasn't exactly worried that we wouldn't be able to pull it off but I did know I needed help figuring it out. Luckily, four amazing RLH moms stepped up to the plate and offered to help me organize and plan: Jessica Zeldner, Katie Volkmar, Amanda Murphy and Lesley Switendick. The 5 of us got to brainstorming and came up with a plan. We would set up a sign up sheet for the items (we used mysignup.com) and get the word out right away that we needed help gathering items. We also gave people the option of donating gift cards so that anyone wanting to have the shopping experience with their kids could still do so, even if they couldn't fit it into their budget. We set a goal of raising all of the shipping costs through donations (directly to Project C.U.R.E.) so that we didn't have to ask families to cover that on top of whatever they were spending on items for the kits.
Thanks to Backflip Studios here in Boulder and Sandi and Gary Stith, we almost immediately surpassed our shipping cost goal by $100. This not only meant that we didn't have to worry about that piece of the puzzle anymore but that in the end we would be able to make a donation to Project C.U.R.E. when we returned our full kits. In the weeks following, the sign up sheet slowly started to fill up and I received gift card donations from several non-RLH friends/family (Jenny Mathias, Joelyn Wilkosz, Ivan Grabowski and Sandy Yoon, Maggie Briggs and Gretchen and Bryan Rech). Despite this promising and heartwarming activity, my dream of filling 50 kits started to downsize into dreams of filling 20 or so because the sign up sheet was pretty daunting..there were just so many items on there!
The day of the event arrived and we had a great turnout and a lovely time. The kids had fun choosing items for the kits and the parents all enjoyed chatting and getting to know each other. Before we knew it, we had filled all of the kits and we called everyone together. I got choked up as we all counted the bags together and realized we had reached our goal--in the end we were able to fill 53 kits! I was so pleasantly shocked and touched by the effort put in by so many of our families. It was a great project to do with our kids and they seemed to understand the impact, even if only in really basic terms. As we were getting dinner ready at home later that day, Zoe (my 5 year old) came right up to me and said "Mommy, I wanted to say this earlier, but got nervous saying it in front of everyone...that was INCREDIBLE....all the people that came to help...everything that we did....it was INCREDIBLE" and she gave me a huge hug. Now, if that isn't proof that we are succeeding in our mission, I don't know what is.
A couple of days later, my kids and I drove the full kits down to the Project C.U.R.E. warehouse and Megan was kind enough to take a little time out of her day to show us around and tell us more about the work that they do. The kids had a great time and were blown away by how HUGE the warehouse is. It is absolutely jam packed with medical supplies all waiting to go to communities that need them. The volunteers work tirelessly and were all really kind and friendly. We felt so grateful to have a little window into their invaluable efforts.
Although our event has passed, there are many ways in which you can support Project C.U.R.E.:
1) There are piles of Kits for Kids at the warehouse that were filled by other groups but were not accompanied by the $5 donation, waiting to be shipped. If you would like to help those kits find a home, you can check out Megan's Fundly campaign and make a donation. In fact, I set up my own Fundly campaign to help them reach their goal so check out mine too and feel free to hop on board.
2) Hold your own Kits for Kids event with your child's school or a group of friends/neighbors. I'd love to help you figure out how to organize your event so feel free to contact me if you would like my support. I'd even pick up and drop of the kits at the warehouse for you if it helps. To help raise your shipping costs, you can set up your own Fundly campaign. If you don't live within driving distance of a Project C.U.R.E. warehouse but want to hold a Kits for Kids event, it IS possible, but you would have to talk with Megan about shipping the kits to and from the warehouse.
3) If you are traveling to an underserved region of the world, you can contact Project C.U.R.E. and ask about their C.U.R.E. Kit program. If you participate, you can bring along a prepackaged C.U.R.E. Kit with you as part of your luggage and deliver it to a clinic in need.
4) You can volunteer in one of the warehouse locations (there are several around the country, including New York **hint hint**) or donate items to those or a distribution center.
5) If you are a medical professional, you can be a part of C.U.R.E. clinics and have an opportunity to work with a clinic that Project C.U.R.E. has delivered supplies to. They offer 12-14 trips per year.
I urge you to go to Project C.U.R.E.'s website to learn more about what they do and dare you not to feel inspired and support them in some way.
Thank you to everyone who made this event possible, I look forward to doing it again next year!