The holiday season is filled with joyous letters to Santa lined with wishes for new toys and gifts, but for children spending the holidays in a hospital, a simple kind gesture is more than they could ever ask for. These hospitalized children who are away from their families and homes during the holidays came to mind while Ryan Guldberg, the E-commerce Director for I See Me!—a publisher of personalized children’s books—was watching the classic Christmas film, “Miracle on 34th Street.”
Guldberg’s lightbulb went off during the famous courtroom scene when lawyer Fred Gailey dramatically approaches the judge and dumps hundreds of children’s handwritten letters expressing their belief in Santa Claus. This classic film moment inspired Guldberg to build upon I See Me!’s mission to make every child feel special by redirecting the season’s letter writing frenzy towards something profound: Something that embraced giving over receiving.
In November 2017, Guldberg’s idea, Letters of Love, was born. Now by visiting www.iseeme.com/letters, anyone, anywhere can write a digital letter of encouragement to a child battling cancer. These online letters are then printed by the company’s partner, the Children’s Cancer Research Fund. The Children’s Cancer Research Fund distributes the printed letters to a network of care partners (including groups like Momcology, a peer support network for families facing pediatric cancer) who then deliver the Letters of Love to young cancer patients across the country.
I See Me! is a small, Minnesota-based company, and thus had minimal expectations for their Letters of Love campaign: They believed its inaugural run would garner “maybe 50 letters max,” according to an interview with a local news broadcast. To their surprise, the campaign accumulated over 1,500 letters from people across the globe, even reaching as far as Japan. “We aren’t a giant corporation that can donate tons of money,” Guldberg told the network during the broadcast interview. “But we still wanted to do something that was really special for the kids”
Now for every 50 Letters of Love I See Me! receives, the small publishing company donates a personalized book to a deserving child through Children’s Cancer Research Fund. The books are redeemed via a voucher, allowing parents to use I See Me!’s online book customization services to their liking.
John Hallberg, Chief Executive Officer at Children’s Cancer Research Fund, is deeply grateful for the Letters of Love campaign. “Children affected by cancer are at the center of everything we do, and supporting them during the holiday season is especially important,” he says.
“Many kids fighting cancer can’t celebrate the holidays the way they usually do, so I’m truly thankful for those who take time to send them a note of encouragement this time of year.”
The 2018 campaign launched on November 1st and reached the 1,200 letter mark in its first month. This year, I See Me! will also donate a percentage of every book purchased to the Children’s Cancer Research Fund. I See Me! is actively encouraging those interested in doing more for the cause to donate via the I See Me! website.
“We continue to be surprised at how many personal stories came in: People who have overcome cancer or who are also facing it themselves, and that was their reason for reaching out,” says Patrick Martin, Corporate Development Officer at Children’s Cancer Research Fund. “They want to give hope to these children and let them know they have a team cheering for them. It is a testament to how generous and empathetic people can be.”
The Letters of Love campaign may still be in its infancy, but the company hopes to expand it even further in the years to come. One big goal is to lure celebrity endorsements or professional athlete participation through social media. “We would love to have an NFL player write a letter and challenge three others to do the same,” notes I See Me!’s PR Specialist, Samantha Bosch.
“We’re just trying to reach as many folks as we can,” adds Matin. “We’re so thankful for what I See Me! is doing. Without them there wouldn’t be a connection point.”
Writer: Liana Lozada