GIFT TO UPLIFT
In February of 2014, I took a class called "Do Good Now!" as a freshman in college. Here, I was given the opportunity to Do Good! At that time, my cousin Lynne's son, Charlie, was 2 years old and had been born with a heart defect. He needed many surgeries at the beginning of his life and would continue to need them as he grew. Gift To Uplift is a design project turned organization and I did it for Charlie and Lynne.
Gift to Uplift is an organization that creates personalized storybooks for children with long-term illnesses. The idea is that they can be the hero of their own story. Check out the process of creating Gift to Uplift, how it has evolved, and where it is now!
First - I formed a team. I announced that I wanted to create a project in the pediatric healthcare space and some awesome people decided to join me!
Erica from The Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship came to class to teach us design thinking! We started with a crazy brainstorm, with the initial idea of creating a way to uplift parents.
As we dove into empathy interviews, particularly with parents of sick children, we heard the same thing over and over again. Parents just wanted above all else was to make their child happy. Even in the hospital.
HOW MIGHT WE create a way for Lynne to help Charlie smile, even when he's getting ready for a scary procedure?
BUILDING IT OUT
After several rounds of ideation, we decided to create personalized storybooks for children like Charlie, that he could read with his parents. We wanted the kids to be the hero of their own story!
Time to make our first book. We prototyped storylines, bindings, and formats. And asked a student artist for a little help.
In 4 short months, we were able to create our first book and check out the video to see our delivery to Charlie!
With our first successful book delivery, we turned our sights to our next goals. After the initial project, we wanted to turn Gift to Uplift into an on-campus club to continue making books and to receive funding from the University of Maryland. And, we started working on book number two, for Aidan.
Gift to Uplift is still operational and based at the University of Maryland.
Here are some of my favorite G2U accomplishments:
We've created over 40 books! Take a look at one that I wrote and illustrated here.
We have a long standing partnership with the Children's Inn at NIH. We visit them often to meet children and we always bring fun activities!
In 2014 and 2015 we received cash prizes, and a ticket to the semi-finals of the Do Good Challenge at Maryland (2015). Both were by a voting process, and we were so thankful!
During the Do Good Challenge showcase, I pitched with my co-founder on-stage for the first prize. Even though we came in second for the $800 prize, an anonymous donor granted us $1000!
I am always humbled by how much our mission resonates with people and families. It means the world to me to have spent the last five years creating pockets of joy.
It is impossible to summarize all that I have learned from Gift to Uplift.
I was able to practice taking an idea and making it a sustainable reality.
I learned to share a vision and have people join me because they believed in the cause.
My favorite thing is talking to the children. They have big imaginations, wild creativity, and incredible optimism. They've taught me to be comfortable with whimsy and the absurd. And because they talk pretty fast - speaking with them is a great way to practice active listening.