A Q/A with founder Christina Wood
Sometimes the simplest things are the most powerful. Such is the case of The Caden Project. In the spirit of the holiday season we would like to introduce you to this wonderful local non-profit organization that helps sick kids with the gift of a teddy bear with a Q/A with CEO Christina Wood.
What is the Caden Project?
The Caden Project is a non-profit organization under the name Compassionate Hearts For Kids. We have two boys that were born with genetic immune disorders and both had to go through bone marrow transplants in order to survive. Living in and out of the hospital for months on end, we began to have a deep compassion for these kids and families. We knew one day we wanted to do something for these kids to show some compassion and love to them. To show them that somebody cared. But at the time, we didn’t know what that was.
Why did you start it? Is Caden involved today? What does he think about all this?
It all started with a bear. When our second son, Caden, went through his bone marrow transplant in November of 2013 here in Jacksonville at Wolfson Children’s Hospital, he was given a build-a-bear by a close family friend. We saw the comfort it brought him during his sickest moments. It was able to distract him from how he was feeling. It gave him a friend. It then became our mission to put a smile on a child’s face by providing as many bears as we could to sick and injured kids. And it’s not just the kids that receive comfort from the bears, the parents do too. Our long term goal is to deliver to every hospital in the country. We have a great team of people that have come around us as volunteers to help in the day to day aspect of helping this project grow. Caden just turned 3 years old and is still too young to really understand the magnitude of everything. As he gets older he will definitely be more involved.
Who benefits the most from the Caden project and how?
The kids and families receiving the bears obviously benefit from being the recipient of the gift but to be honest those of us actually delivering the bears to these kids benefit just as much with the pure joy of seeing a child light up after giving them a bear. It’s priceless!
Who are a few of the recipients that have been the most remarkable?
One of our most memorable experiences was one of our first deliveries over a year ago when we gave a firefighter bear to a little boy named Ryan who was at Brooks Rehab here in Jacksonville. He had sustained a brain injury and at the time was not able to talk to us. When we gave him his bear, he held it close to his face and started kissing it. We received an e-mail from the mom about 6 months later saying that Ryan had made a full recovery and how that bear was an integral part of his recovery. They also had a group of friends and family go to the build-a-bear store where they live and made bears and donated them to us! It was so great to see kids helping other kids especially after being a recipient of a bear himself and then turning around and paying it forward. That’s what it’s all about. Paying it forward and showing others that people do care.
If local people want to get involved what is the process?
We have a huge vision to take The Caden Project nationwide next year. Our biggest need right now is donations so we can buy more bears and reach more kids. People can donate through our website at www.thecadenproject.org and all donations are tax deductible. We also have a Facebook page that people can “Like” and share www.facebook.com/thecadenproject. We love for people to come and delivery bears with us as well. We deliver on a monthly basis to Brooks Rehab and UF Health. They can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about delivering bears.
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