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On Saturday 16th of July 2022, Bishop’s Stortford will gather on Sworders Field for a ‘Party in the Park.’ There will be live music, local food vendors, and community stalls. This community event celebrates the people who go above and beyond for our local area, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can nominate a hero; someone who serves our community, someone who cares for others, or someone who has overcome a personal hurdle. In this article, we will focus on our first nominated hero: Katie Callaghan, Founder of Cards for Bravery.
About Katie Callaghan
Katie is 19 years old and has grown up in Bishop’s Stortford. She has a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) and a number of other chronic illnesses. What impacts her most day-to-day is having Chronic Intestinal Pseudo Obstruction, which is caused by EDS. She relies on a central line into her heart to receive nutrition via her bloodstream. Chatting to Katie, it was apparent these circumstances do not dictate her perspective on life. She has a positive outlook, and her charity work is evidence of this.
Throughout Katie’s life, she has spent a lot of time in hospital. It was during a four-month-long hospital stay when she was 13 years old that a new idea sparked.
The formation of Cards for Bravery
Katie understands what life in hospital is like for a child. She’s been there. She described how it can often feel like the world is going by without you, and it’s very isolating. At the age of 13, during a hospital stay, Katie’s friend sent her a card. It was signed by everyone in her class at school. This card had a profound impact on her mood and outlook. She knew her friends were thinking of her, the messages in the card encouraged her to stay strong. It made her feel emotionally a lot better.
Setting up the charity
Katie had the idea of making and distributing cards to children and teenagers in hospital. It would be an opportunity to put a smile on a child’s face and make their day whilst they were in hospital receiving treatment. It was 2015, she set up a Facebook and Instagram page and began to organise cards.
The work of the charity
- They make homemade cards to send to children and teenagers in hospital and for children being cared for at home.
- They have a huge Christmas card campaign for the children and teenagers who spend Christmas in hospital.
- They send personalised Bravery Packages – A Bravery Package is essentially a care package for a selected individual between the ages of 2-21 with a long-term illness. The charity research to see what the individual’s interests and passions are and fill a box of gifts for them. Even the box is covered with encouraging messages.
- They are currently in the process of creating activity packs for different age groups. They are full of age-appropriate puzzles, challenges, and fun activities. These are designed to keep the individual entertained during their time in hospital.
- During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cards for Bravery created cards for the doctors and nurses on the front line of the hospital wards.
The charity: then vs now
The charity began with Katie. Her hospital stays and school commitments meant she often had to take breaks from charity work. In recent years, more people have got involved and the charity has grown.
Since the beginning of Cards for Bravery, the charity has distributed over 11,000 cards. 1500 of them have been in the last year alone. There is a much bigger volunteer team that is currently involved. Their job roles vary from card makers, social media marketers, to administration. They distribute cards to 12 hospitals currently. Moving forward, Katie hopes to increase the number of hospitals the cards get sent to.
Cards for Bravery highlights
Katie described how running Cards for Bravery has thoroughly enriched her life. It’s a rewarding feeling knowing she’s helping thousands of people through her charity mission. Katie explained how it has given her a purpose, even on days when she is physically struggling, she can achieve a task from bed that pushes forward the charity’s progress. Her work hasn’t gone unnoticed:
- In 2021, the English Stamp Company released a line of stamps inspired by Cards for Bravery.
- In 2019, Katie won the Child of Courage Award in the Bishop’s Stortford Indies Award.
In 2017, Katie was one of the 10 finalists for the BBC Radio 1 Teen Hero Awards. She went to Kensington Palace to meet Prince William, Prince Harry, and many other famous faces.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Cards for Bravery
The pandemic unfortunately halted some of the great efforts of the charity. Hospitals couldn’t accept packages due to hygiene safety concerns. Katie described how difficult it was knowing how many children were in the paediatric wards with limited visitors. Playrooms were shut and toys couldn’t be shared around.
The Cards for Bravery team kept making cards waiting for when it was safe to distribute them to hospitals. This situation encouraged them to make the laminated activity packs as they can easily be wiped down and used again.
How can you get involved to help?
If you want to assist the great work Cards for Bravery, you can do so in five ways:
- Buy some card-making supplies of Card for Bravery’s wish list.
- Make some cards and send them to the charity’s postal address. Take a look at the card guidelines.
- Share the great work Cards for Bravery does. If you know someone who loves to make cards, direct them to Cards for Bravery .
- Become a regular volunteer.
The community will come together for a ‘Party in The Park’ on Saturday 16th July to celebrate the great work of local heroes like Katie.
Do you have someone in mind who does great work for our community? Nominate them for a Stortford Heroes award.