Jen Rubino is 17 years old and is the founder of Cards for Hospitalized Kids, a national charitable organization that gives hope, joy and magic to hospitalized kids across America through cards. Her motivation for starting Cards for Hospitalized Kids goes back to her own experience as hospitalized kid. At age 11, Rubino was diagnosed with a poorly understood connective tissue disorder, more commonly known as a chronic illness. Rubino’s illness forced her to undergo fifteen painful surgeries and inspired her to do something meaningful with her life. Cards for Hospitalized Kids has helped thousands of ill kids across the country by giving them joy through cards.
1) What does being fearless mean to you?
To me, being fearless means not being afraid to chase your dreams and be who you are. There is always pressure on girls to change who they are and what they want their dreams to be, but being fearless means not letting others impact your desire to chase your dreams or your desire to be who you are. Being fearless doesn’t mean that you don’t have fear; it means you have the courage to put aside that fear.
2) Tell us about your organization, Cards For Hospitalized Kids. When did you start it? Why? What is it you do and offer? How can others get involved?
Cards for Hospitalized Kids(CFHK) is a national charitable organization that gives cards to hospitalized kids across America. Doctors provide the medicine and we provide ill kids with hope, joy & magic through cards. I started CFHK in March of 2011 with the dream of giving joy to kids with health problems. I know what it is like to be a hospitalized kid all too well because of my own experience as a hospitalized kid. When I was 11 years old, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness and my illness has forced me to undergo 15 painful surgeries. It was very hard for me to deal with my condition because it took away my ability to lead a normal life and my ability to experience the joys of childhood. My illness showed me what hospitalized kids go through and it also showed me that small gestures such as a card mean the world to them because of what they are going through, which is why I founded CFHK. When kids are hospitalized, they typically feel lonely and sad, but we help lessen those feelings by giving kids joy through cards.
We’ve given cards to over 4, 500 hospitalized kids at more than 40 hospitals across the United States. People around the country are involved including celebrities and athletes such as MTV star Lauren Conrad, world champion gymnasts Aly Raisman and Shayla Worley and others. Our goal for this year is to give cards to 20,000 hospitalized kids and we need help to do it. Each month, we distribute cards to hospitals and people can send in cards as often as they want, even each month. The more people that send in cards, the more kids we can cheer up. Our website, www.cardsforhospitalizedkids.com, has all the information on making cards, hosting a card making party and getting others involved.
I have a few. One is my friend, Joy Clausen, who is a cancer survivor. She fought her battle against cancer fearlessly and is using her experiences to help others. Her journey was shown in the documentary film Just One Year and she has helped me become fearless. My other fearless role models are Tammy Tibbetts, who is the founder of a non-profit called She’s the First, and Becca Wertheim, who is a teen author. Both of them chase their dreams fearlessly and that inspires me.
4) What obstacles (if any) did you feel you had to overcome on the way to being authentically you?
Overcoming the fear of failing was definitely the biggest obstacle I had to overcome to become authentically me. When I was a kid, I was a competitive gymnast who dreamed of going to the Olympics. I loved the sport, but the fear of failing kept me from being the best I could be at the beginning of my career. One night in the gym, I broke down realizing how much my fear of failing was holding me back and I decided I would never again let the fear of failing keep me from going after my goals and that holds true to this day. After I got over that fear, I became known for my fearless attitude, both in and out of the gym. I had to end my career as a gymnast once I was diagnosed with my medical condition, but I treasure the lessons the sport taught me, particularly this one because I wouldn’t be where I am today if the fear of failing was holding me back.
5) And for fun, 3 fearless facts about you…
- I have a journal full of quotes that inspire me
- I have a playlist of inspiring songs on my IPod.
- Before each of my surgeries, I read the book Soul Surfer by Bethany Hamlton, who lost her arm in a shark attack at the age of 13. Bethany’s courage gives me hope and strength.
For more info on Jen or Cards for Hospitalized Kids, check out the website here: www.cardsforhospitalizedkids.com! Also check them out on Twitter, @Crds4HosptlKids and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CardsForHospitalizedKids