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Wednesday, 15 August 2007
Interview with Marsha Jordan
Topic: Author Interview
1.  First, Marsha, can you give us a brief idea of what Hugs and Hopes
is all about and how you started this project?
  Hugs and Hope is an Internet based group of caring people who, through the web site, are able to connect with suffering children and help spread some love and cheer.  It began as my hobby of sending cheery mail to critically ill children.    After my grandson was badly burned, I felt frustrated because he was suffering and I couldn't stop his pain.  This caused me to fall into a deep depression.  I battled my depression by focusing on hurting children and trying to make their lives a little brighter -- to take their minds off their pain for a while.    My hobby of sending what I called "happy mail" soon became a full time job of cheering hundreds of kids across the country.  Now it's a national non-profit charity serving hundreds of children and boasting over 3,000 volunteer "hug givers and hope builders."    It began with just sending cards; but now we have several programs, such as providing birthday parties, Christmas gifts, Easter baskets, balloon bouquets after surgery, and even granting wishes.  We support parents too with a 24 hour chat group and what we call a Parent Pal program (volunteers "adopt" a parent and provide one-on-one support).
2.  Your book, Hugs, Hopes and Peanut Butter, has gotten some wonderful
reviews.  Tell us a bit about it.
  I did not set out to write a book!  I send a weekly newsletter of encouragement to parents of sick children.  In it, I often include funny stories from my life and bits of wisdom or lessons I've learned.  Readers begged me to publish the stories so they could keep them.  I thought it would be great to have the sick kids illustrate the book, so I collected 40 drawings from HUGS and HOPE kids and included them with my sometimes serious, sometimes humorous essays.  The book has been a big hit.  People say it's very inspirational for anyone who is discouraged, disappointed with life, or just in need of a good laugh and a little lift.  That's ALL of us!
3.  How can someone purchase a copy of Hugs, Hopes and Peanut Butter?
  The book can be ordered through any book store; but when purchased from our web site, we earn more and don't have to pay the middle man! 
4.  You have several things listed on your site that others can do to help.  Two that particularly caught my attention were "Be an Elf" and  "Parent Pals" .  Can you tell us a little more about these programs?
    The Elf Program matches up a volunteer with a sick child whose family cannot afford Christmas gifts.  Volunteer "elves" love receiving their child's wish list and then shopping for, wrapping, and sending their surprises.  The Parent Pals program was instituted because parents of critically ill children are often very isolated.  When children are stuck at home due to compromised immune systems (not able to be around people who may have germs), the parents are stuck at home alone too.  Also, when a child is seriously ill, family and friends tend to pull away rather than pulling together to provide moral support and physical help.  Moms and dads feel very alone and need someone to care and just to listen and let them vent.  That's what parent pals do.  They provide that rare commodity called friendship.  What makes HUGS and HOPE a unique organization is that personal touch.  Volunteers become involved in the lives of these families in crisis. 
5.  What other things can people do to help? There seems to be a variety of programs.  One to fit everyone's schedule/finances.
  A volunteer may invest as much or as little time as they desire.  One may want to deliver balloons to a hospital.  Another may want to shop for birthday party supplies.  Some make blankets, tote bags, or pillow cases the kids can take with them to the hospital. Some volunteers help to grant wishes for items such as new bikes or swing sets.  Others help behind the scenes, working on our web site, helping to sell raffle tickets, coordinating programs, contributing to newsletters, and dozens of other jobs.
6.  What would you like to share with our readers that I haven't asked?
  Sending a cheery card is a very small thing that takes only a moment and costs very little.  Anyone of any age or ability can do it.  But it's a big deal to a sick child.  One card can make a kid's day.  I wish everyone would make the effort to send some happy mail.  It's satisfying to know you're making a difference.  Creating a little more joy and sharing a little love is not a small thing.  It means the world to these children.  I encourage young families with small children, retired grandmothers, handicapped people in wheel chairs -- EVERYONE to get involved.  One of the smiles they create may just be their own!    Love and joy are like peanut butter.  Spread them around and you can't help but get some on yourself!
Thanks, Marsha!!

Posted by joyceanthony at 3:04 PM EDT
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