Where a loss can shake you, it also brings with it an opportunity -- an opportunity to help shine lives around you. You have a choice to grieve or help grieve. For 12 year-old Sadie, it was clear. She wanted to help children who lost loved ones and wanted to let them know they are cared for. I enjoy talking to kids as they embody an exceptional wisdom that can be neither gauged nor mirrored and Sadie was no exception.
Here's a glimpse into our chat with her.
1. What inspired you to start ComfortKitsForKids and how has the experience been so far?
I have experienced many losses myself and my mom is super aware of that fact. I also happen to know a lot of people who have been through with immense grief and I really wanted to help them and more. I have been doing this for almost two years now and it all started when I was 12. My first kits I gave out were in Maine and now we are giving them out here in California for kids who are not able to go to grief camps due to the Corona virus situation. I have so far given the kits to about 90 kids and everything about it has been gratifying.
The thought of just wanting to help people who are really going through this grief inspires me the most. I want them to know that people are there for them, who have been through similar things, and give them the comfort that there are other people who are thinking of them and care for them.
I started to fund the project by getting them from my allowance and making lemonade stands in order to make the kits`but then I got a grant recently so I could use the grant to make my kits now. My family and friends have both been very very supportive and they are always offering to help me in any way they can.
2. What did you learn from your experiences of gifting love and service through the project?
Umm, the biggest of all is that it made me realize just about me...like how much I really want to make people smile and just how much I want to make people feel better and/or make them feel understood and connected and not feel alone. I really think that it has helped me become a better person and I learnt to value and deeply appreciate my relationships and everything that I have in life now. I learnt to care about every single person I meet and about everything that they've been through.I cannot say enough about how I feel for having a strong sense of community.
3. Can you tell us more about why you feel strongly about a community?
Yes, I think it's really helpful to have someone there for you..whether it's just a simple gesture like a hug, like someone to write to or be gifted a present from. I feel that it means a lot to just have someone there no matter what you want them to do for you. Something like a smile too when you are walking down the hallway. It just shows that people are there for you when you need ... It's really really important.
4. Is there any fond memory that you'd like to share with us ?
I got a letter from someone who told me that my kit really helped them and that it comforted them. That really made me feel like my action mattered and that the kit made them feel like there was someone there for them.That was my first letter and it really meant a lot to me because I really wanted to know if it felt good for them to have it. My mum and I, we stay in touch with the kids who receive the kits via email. They can write to us whenever they feel like. We sometimes do pen pals with them. They also tell us what they'd like in their kit and we try to include that.
5. You mentioned that you deeply understand what loss means. Can you share more on how you came about to understanding it?
Yes, I have experienced many losses in my life and its always hard to go through them and sometimes you feel alone and that nobody else has been through that. It would have meant a lot to me if I had someone tell me then that they have been through a loss and want to make sure you know that they are there for you. A lot of times I haven't met a bunch of kids who said something like that to me or understood what I went through. I couldn't really talk to any kids and it seems like none of them really knew what it felt like in any way and I wanted to make sure that some people were there for other kids who are going through the same thing. There was one kid though who tried to understand but then I couldn't really connect with them. I learnt that sometimes we all grieve differently and that it is okay to not be able to understand someone's grief. I really appreciate all my friends but I just felt that none of them really understood how a loss can impact someone.
6. What is the source of your courage in doing what you do?
Well, for me out of my own experience that it would have meant so much to me to have someone recognize me and my loss .. just remembering that and helping the children with my kits really helps me stay grounded with my mission. I want as many children as I can to feel that they are connected to somebody and somebody else has gone through that loss and that they are not alone. I really want all kids to know that and that's what keeps me going.
7. Who was it that helped you navigate through your tough times in life?
Of course my mom, she's always been there and my friends and sisters. My entire family has always been there for me. And anyone who just gives me a smile as I feel everyone is important and each of us play a secret role in each other's well being. Everyone needs to have a feeling that they have someone out there.
8. What is a practice that you do to overcome times of low?
For me, it's always been about writing down in my journal and that's why I included a journal in the kits. For me sharing my thoughts with someone I'm close to or writing in my journal really helps.
9. What is your definition of service?
Helping people. Helping put a smile on someone's face and make them feel part of the community and be connected. That, to me, is service!
10. What were some challenges that you faced along the way?
A lot of the challenge was just getting everything to put together and bundle it. At the start of the project, I had to put a lot of work into making lemonade and cookies stands and have their sales so I could fund the project. I had to put in all of my allowances and that probably was my biggest challenge - just getting it started before I had any grant and everything.
11. Do you have any future plans for this project? What do you wish to see your effort ripple into?
I definitely want to give more kits and reach more children. My motto is to have toy companies help me with my project by giving donations of toys or anything that will help me make kits.
12. How would you want us to end this conversation? Do you have any message/poem/ thoughts that you want to leave us with?
I just hope I can help as many kids as I possibly can through my kits and make sure no one feels alone and not have anyone show gestures of compassion to them. I don't want any of the kids to go through loneliness.