"You don't have to wait until you are an adult to get things done in our world!"
Because he learned early that comforting others in times of need was "the natural thing to do," Cody Clark, 11, of Kemptville, Ontario, Canada, provides "Comfort Kits" to children and seniors in hospitals and nursing homes to help them forget, for a moment, about their illnesses and fears, and to let them know that someone cares about them.
What kind of philanthropic or volunteer work did/do you do?
I make up "Cody's Comfort Kits" for children in the hospital and Grandma and Grampa Kits for the elderly in hospital and nursing homes. I also make up and deliver personal kits to terminally ill kids and adults and will start "Cody's Cuddlers", which are teddy bears for the cancer patients where my dad received chemotherapy.
What is the name and location of the organization?
The name of my organization is Cody's Individual Comfort Kits, or C.I.C.K., and I am located in Kemptville, Ontario, Canada.
Tell us about the project, especially who benefits from this work.
My comfort kits go to children ages 0-18 who find themselves in the ER at our local hospital in Kemptville. Into the kits go soothers, reading books, cars, craft items, bracelets, dolls, and always a teddy bear, as my nickname is "CodyBear". I also include a personal letter sending wishes for a speedy recovery.
I started the kids' kits in October of 2002 when I was eight years old, and now after three years I have delivered 170 children's kits.
In 2003 I began Grandma and Grampa (G&G) Kits for the elderly in hospital and nursing homes because sometimes they have nobody to care for them. My first Grandma kit went to a lovely lady named Linda Linton who had terminal cancer. I will never forget the smile she gave me when I presented her with a special kit. For a moment there, she forgot about her cancer and was new again! I live for that moment now. I have also delivered 55 G&G kits in and around our area. I also provide personal kits for kids and adults with terminal diseases and have given out 15 of these so far. I pay for these ones out of my allowance because they do not come under the umbrella of the hospital foundation where my Comfort Kits are situated. I host my own fundraising event annually, and over the past three years I have raised $24,000 for my Comfort Kits.
What inspired you to get involved?
When I was five years old, my dad and mom both got cancer, and I thought I was going to be an orphan! I also watched how the community rallied around our family, bringing food, funds, and hugs to help us with this terrible disease! My first fundraising effort actually came at the age of seven and a half when I heard about my friend Brenna needing a new heart. I decided to raise funds for Brenna through Jump Rope for Heart and asked the community to help me "buy" Brenna a new heart, and I raised $2500! Then I heard that the hospital where Brenna was treated had decided to close the cardiac unit, and I was not happy about that! I asked my mom, "What do adults do when they want to get things done?" She replied, "Get a petition going." That was that! I made up my own petition and went to 12 schools in the area and asked the kids to sign my petition and save the unit. I ended up with 2500 signatures, which I took to Dalton McGuinty, who was a [Member of Parliament] at the time, and the cardiac unit remains open today. Brenna is doing OK but will need a new heart one day.
How did you first get involved? Give us some details.
I first got involved in fundraising because of my parents' fight with cancer. My dad had small cell cancer of the lung, and my mom had level 3 melanoma. Being so young and watching other people cook, clean, and be there for you kind of made me think that this was the natural thing to do, so helping others was not really unusual. After all, so many people had come to our aid, so why couldn't I help them?
What is/was the best thing about your experience?
The best part about my experience is watching a child, who is scared of having a needle or examination, smile when I take them a Comfort Kit! Knowing that for a minute they have forgotten their pain or anxiety all because I gave them some toys makes me feel very happy and proud! Also receiving letters and cards from kids, whom I do not meet, thanking me for brightening up their day.
What is/was the hardest part?
Making adults believe in me. Wanting those around me to know that I am serious about making a difference in other people's lives and ultimately our world! Also, red tape is a big factor because of protocol and health hazards in hospitals like allergy problems, so I have to be careful about what I put in the kits at times. I have to say that recently the hardest thing I have had to witness was losing my dad on Feb 20, 2006, after a six-year battle with his cancer. This made me want to keep his memory alive by starting Cody's Cuddlers, and he will be watching me from heaven!
What was the biggest surprise?
The biggest surprise for me was how the idea took off so quickly! I never dreamed it would get so big! Also, with being only 11 and hosting my own fundraising event, I am amazed at how many adults and friends go out of their way to donate time and auction items, thus enabling the success it has been since 2003!
What new things have you learned as a result of your experience and how have you changed as a result?
I learned that you don't have to wait until you are an adult to get things done in our world! I always say that we are the future, and the world is waiting for us to help make it a better one! I have also learned that cancer has no shame or boundaries as it hits everyone from a baby to an adult, not caring where it casts its seeds of despair. My dad may no longer be on this earth, but my mom is, and I will make sure that we have the best time together because you never know when fate may take you away.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of getting involved in philanthropy or volunteering?
I would say: Think about what is needed in your town or school, or as in my case, hospitals, and then make sure you have a plan of action on how to raise the funds for your project, and try to get a company or foundation to write a letter saying they will back your project up. Then you are ready to take on the task of making a difference in the lives of others. It is hard work but very, very rewarding.
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