In Memory of Aunt, Teen Gifts Stuffed Giraffes to Pediatric Cancer Patients

Daily Point of Light # 6320 Aug 6, 2018

As a child, the now 15-year-old Elizabeth Merriam remembers watching her aunt battle cancer and the subsequent oncology treatments, and wished she could comfort others going through a similar experiences.   

Turning towards a demographic closer to her own age, Elizabeth decided she was going to help support and spread love to children battling cancer through the sponsorship of a stuffed giraffe. Launching Kristen’s Kisses in her aunt’s name, Elizabeth’s organization gifts children nationwide with tokens of love and support. Each sponsorship costs $5 and provides a child undergoing treatment a personalized stuffed giraffe. These serve as a reminder to hospitalized and sick children that their greater community, sometimes even strangers, are there to comfort and love them. 

By donating over 500 giraffes, raising over $2,500 and logging hundreds of hours volunteering, Elizabeth is making a difference in her community by reminding sick children they are not alone, and is today’s Daily Point of Light award honoree. Points of Light spoke to Elizabeth to learn more about her work with Kristen’s Kisses. 

Kristen’s Kisses has partnered with the Childhood Cancer Foundation (CFF) of Southern California. Elizabeth Merriam is pictured with CCF of Southern California Executive Director, Stephanie Avila.

What inspires you to volunteer?  

Most teens in our society don’t give back enough and I feel that if I’m doing my part, I am encouraging other kids to do the same. 

Describe your volunteer role with Kristen’s Kisses. 

I volunteer, fundraise, promote events and leverage our social presence to raise awareness about Kristen’s Kisses and its cause. I also research organizations to partner with and try to find relevant events where we can speak about our organization and why it’s important. 

What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?  

A couple of years ago, I met the aunt of a girl we’d sent a stuffed giraffe to. The girl’s name was Cynthia. Cynthia had passed away, but meeting her aunt and hearing her stories about how much the gift had meant to Cynthia really warmed my heart. It comforted her in her time of need. 

What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?  

I used to suffer from really bad social anxiety and volunteering was my way of overcoming my anxiety. Giving back has personally helped me so much. I speak to people in public about my organization, and that helps me every day.  

Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?   

Today’s service carves what our community looks like in the future. If we want our home to look a certain way, we have to be a part of that. 

What do you want people to learn from your story? 

It doesn’t matter how big or small your contribution is to your community, it just matters that you do something to help. 

You’re a rising high school junior. What’s in the future for you? 

I want to become a psychologist for people and teenagers who have social anxiety. Having experienced really bad social anxiety, I can relate. I went through what they are going through, and I want to be there to help them through their journey.  

How can people help Kristen’s Kisses? 

Please visit our website for more information about events, and learn how you can help: 

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Elizabeth Merriam? Visit All For Good for local volunteer opportunities. 

Post written by Marlena Militana. 

Brenda Solis