What started as a small project helmed by a young man and involving a few friends has grown into an organization that touches the lives of thousands of people and is making news around the nation. And as it happens, it all started in the nation’s capital, Washington D.C.
It was at a Washington D.C. charitable organization that Patrick Kaufman first got an idea in his head. Working at Food & Friends, a “community-based organization in the D.C. region providing home-delivered medically tailored meals and medical nutrition therapy to [its] neighbors living with cancer, HIV/AIDS, and other serious illnesses,” Kaufman decided to include Valentine’s Day cards in some of the meals being prepped for home delivery.
The young man enlisted the help of a few friends to hand-write and illustrate about 30 cards that year. That could have been the end of the story, a nice little gesture that brightened the day for a few people living with some serious challenges. Instead, it was the start of the story, not the end at all.
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The next year, inspired to touch more people, Patrick asked for help from schoolmates and, with many students lending a hand (and markers, glue, scissors, and some heart and humor), Patrick oversaw the creation and sent out about 300 cards. And it would only grow from there.
The “Valentines by Kids” Initiative is Born
By 2022, it was clear that Patrick’s project was not going to be a flash in the pan, but was in fact going to grow and grow. But to be clear, it grew because this dedicated and resourceful teenager put in the effort to make it so. Patrick asked his father help him to expand the network of kids who could create cards, and so the Kaufmans reached out to schools far and wide explaining what they were doing and how the students at the schools could help.
And with a website set up and a nonprofit established, the organization now formally called Valentines by Kids was launched and growing steadily. Hardly a project that is only relevant around February 14th, these Valentine’s Day cards are now something Patrick, his family, and some helpers are focused on basically all year round.
How You Can Help With the Valentine’s Day Initiative
Valentines by Kids makes it very easy for people to be a part of the program. All someone has to do is reach out to them from a school and send a bit of information. The organization needs to know how many Valentine’s Day cards the school can create and it needs the mailing address of the school and… that’s it. The organization will then send a box with that many empty envelopes, the kids at the school create the cards and stuff them into those envelopes, and then the school can mail the card-laden box back, all at no cost — Valentines by Kids sends a prepaid label for the shipping. And they handle all logistics of distribution to the hospitals, hospice centers, and homes of people who are in need of a bit of cheer.
The benefits of participating in the program are many. Per Valentines by Kids: “The students are happy because they shared some love. The teachers are happy because they taught a valuable lesson. The school is happy that it was able to contribute to the community. The people who get the cards are VERY happy. Everyone is happy!”
Everyone is happy — how often can we really say that in this day and age? If you have a child in school, you work for a school, or you just have any meaningful connection to an educational institution, you can help spread some of that happiness by signing on with Valentines by Kids.
The future of Patrick Kaufman’s Valentine’s by Kids organization looks bright
Let’s do a little math here: in 2020, we know Patrick Kaufman and a few friends sent out about 30 Valentine’s Day cards to strangers who they figured may not otherwise get any cards on February 14th. In 2021, Patrick’s efforts helped about 300 cards go out, a ten-fold increase. Then in 2022, we saw another ten-time increase in the number of cards that went out, with some 3,000 being created and sent.
And just now, in 2023, Patrick, along with scores of other kids (and some adult help) has been instrumental in some 16,000 Valentine’s Day cards being sent to people who may otherwise have been without meaningful contact on this love-centric day. Now, 16,000 may not be a ten-fold increase year-over-year as we’d been seeing, but when we’re talking about 16,000 lives touched, we’ll take the 5.3 times growth in the last year and call that a win.
As for who gets the cards, Patrick’s site states: “I volunteer for DC-based Food & Friends which delivers meals [and cards] to seriously ill adults and children living in the DC/MD/VA area, along with their families and caregivers… I also deliver cards to DC/MD/VA area hospitals and nursing homes, so I am trying to collect as many cards as possible.”
An Inspiration to us all
We’ve already noted the age of the young man at the center of this story, but it’s worth repeating it: Patrick Kaufman is, at the time of this writing 14 years old. That is an age at which most of us are more concerned with video games, movies, gossip, sports, and other things that, frankly speaking, may be enjoyable but are of little lasting meaning.
Patrick, on the other hand, is now three years into a project that touches the lives of thousands of people in a meaningful way. To put a finer point on that, that is to say, he was already a compassionate and empathetic thinker at age 11. And for the record, the work he and his fellow Valentines by Kids volunteers do is genuinely meaningful: a few kind words or a moment where genuine care is displayed can have a demonstrable beneficial effect on the recipient. And that’s true according to science, per Positive News. Neuroscientists have studied the effects of kind words and acts on the human brain and there is no doubt of a boost in a person’s sense of well-being after a moment of kindness is experienced.
For those who may be sick or lonely — or, far too often, both — these Valentine’s Day cards may be the only instance of kindness experienced in a long while, thus the effect of the cards will be even stronger. Here’s the thing: you don’t need to touch the lives of 16,000 people to spread a bit of kindness yourself; you can take a bit of inspiration from Valentines by Kids and Patrick Kaufman and say something nice to a couple of people each day. You never know whose day it may totally change and brighten for the better.