Lindsay Kunik provides hope to seriously ill pediatric patients with Butterfly Kisses Care Baskets
Lindsay Kunik was inspired to start the nonprofit Butterfly Kisses Care Baskets after meeting an 8-year-old pediatric patient named Ellie. The nonprofit, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, aims to support children with cancer and other serious illnesses by providing care baskets, packages and other supportive measures to families. The organization also aims to raise awareness of childhood cancer and other underfunded pediatric diseases.
“After Ellie passed away in 2010, my close friend Holly Walsh and I decided that we wanted to do something in her honor to help children like her,” said Kunik, a senior at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Nursing. “Butterflies were an important symbol to Ellie and her family during her illness. To me, they were also a sign of change and hope.”
Since 2010, Butterfly Kisses has served more than 300 children with serious life-threatening illnesses. Both Kunik and Walsh visit local children in hospitals and their homes and mail packages to families throughout the U.S.
“For families that are not local, we create a collage with photos that the family provides to us,” she said. In addition, the child and siblings receive a personalized goody box filled with small toys that are age appropriate, such as crayons, small art projects, jewelry, games, Play-Doh and stickers. If the child is local, they receive a larger care basket filled with art sets, fleece blankets, decorated pillow cases, handheld games, chalk and bubbles.
The visits often vary in length from a few minutes if the child is feeling sick to several hours.
“I can recall visiting a 2-year-old with leukemia a few years ago,” Kunik said. “She was in inpatient care and we ended up playing with her on the floor for hours.”
Kunik has also faced tough moments while running her nonprofit.
“We have had many children pass away after our visits and we have attended many funerals for these children,” she said. “We attended the funeral for a 1-year-old who had passed away. Her mom saw us and was brought to tears that the ‘butterfly girls’ were there. I gave her a big hug and promised her that we wouldn’t stop fighting for her daughter and children like her.”
A traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing student, Kunik is able to balance her schoolwork, extracurricular activities and the nonprofit effectively. She currently carries a 3.95 grade point average, is on the executive board of Friends of the ASK Childhood Cancer Foundation at VCU, is part of Nursing Students Without Borders and volunteers as a doula.
“During the school year it is harder to do as much as I would like, but I try to dedicate a little bit of time each day to Butterfly Kisses, even if it’s just updating the Facebook page,” Kunik said. “Butterfly Kisses doesn’t feel like work to me — I enjoy it.”
She has been interested in nursing as long as she can remember and hopes to work in labor and delivery after graduation.
“We have projects that I did in preschool that described me as wanting to be a ‘baby nurse’ when I grew up,” Kunik said. She completed her women’s health clinical rotation last semester. “It felt great to have those interests affirmed,” she said, adding that she is interested in becoming a certified nurse midwife in the future.
Kunik’s passion for women’s health nursing was evident to Susan Lindner, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Family and Community Health Nursing at the VCU School of Nursing.
“During our clinical experiences together she was always working and helping other nurses and her peers, but when she went to labor and delivery she fell in love,” Linder said. “We have discussed her progression in labor and delivery and women’s health often.”
Kunik is confident her education at the VCU School of Nursing has set her up for success for her future nursing career in women’s health, as well as given her the skills to run her nonprofit.
“The School of Nursing has prepared me in many ways, far beyond technical skills,” Kunik said. “I have learned those skills, but the school has also taught me a lot about communication and has given me the confidence to walk into a patient’s room and assert myself as their nurse.”
For more information on the work Kunik is doing with pediatric patients or how you can support Butterfly Kisses Care Baskets, please visit www.facebook.com/ButterflyKissesCareBaskets.