About our Founder
My name is Jen Rubino and I am the founder of Cards for Hospitalized Kids (CFHK). My inspiration for founding CFHK comes from my own experiences as "hospitalized kid", undergoing 20+ surgeries in the hospital as a child. Growing up, I was a competitive gymnast training 6 days a week. I visited the doctor after experiencing pain in my wrist, which I assumed was from an injury. However, my life changed instantly when I was diagnosed with a childhood connective tissue and bone disease that ultimately required 20+ surgeries in order to be treated.
I had to adjust to surgeries, treatments, pain and hospitals being a regular part of my life. My experiences in the hospital showed me just how difficult it is to be a child or teen who is hospitalized and/or seriously ill. Hospitalized kids often feel forgotten, sad, lonely and isolated. They also miss out on many of the normal joys of childhood very often taken for granted such as: attending school regularly, playing sports, attending school clubs, dances, etc.
There was one specific hospital stay that was particularly difficult for me. It was in February 2011, and I was recovering from a major hip reconstructive surgery at Lurie Children's Hospital. During the operation, the doctors had to break my hip in 5 places and then completely re-construct & re-position it. This is a very rare surgery only performed by 10 Children's Hospitals in the United States. I was in extreme pain, had lost a lot of blood and spent a week in the pediatric intensive care unit. I also faced a year of rehabilitation and physical therapy to recover and learn to walk again.
I was missing school, my friends and life outside the hospital. During that very difficult time, I received a handmade card from a hospital volunteer that really brightened my dad and reminded me I wasn't forgotten. This inspired me to found CFHK to do the same for other kids.
After I was released from the hospital, I partnered with the Des Plaines Public Library and my high school to host monthly card-making events. This is how CFHK formally began. The community quickly rallied behind the cause, and other libraries in Illinois also began hosting card-making events as well. Other schools and organizations also began making cards for us. The idea continued to take off from there, and eventually I formally founded CFHK. At the time, I was a teenager with no experience in the nonprofit field but I was determined not to let that stop me.
While CFHK began as a small, local effort, it has grown into the national charity it is today. Over 500,000 cards have now been distributed. I have seen firsthand how impactful the cards are for the receiving patients and their families.
I am continually inspired by the amazing individuals & groups across the USA, and abroad, who donate time and creativity to make handmade cards and send them to CFHK for distribution. People of all walks of life have come together under this common cause. It's truly amazing.
As the executive director of CFHK, I'm able to combine my own experience as a patient and my desire to help others in a way that allows me to help hospitalized kids across America who are facing what I've faced. I'm so thankful to be able to use my experiences to help others.
I've also been fortunate to share my story and journey of founding CFHK with others through public speaking engagements at conferences, schools, events, etc. as well as at card-making events.
I look forward to expanding CFHK and continuing to help as many kids as possible. Thank you to everyone who supports CFHK.
*Jen is now a student at The George Washington University in D.C. She continues to oversee CFHK operations.