Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.
It is always exciting for us to share more about our amazing Honorees. There is often a lot of encouragement to be had, and life lessons to share. Today is no exception, as we sat down with Christina Wood, author of the Award-Winning book A Bear Finds His Purpose. Christina and her family founded The Caden Project, and are encouraging children around the world to help others in any way they can, however small.
MCA: Hi Christina! It’s so nice to talk to you today. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Christina: I have a degree and background in public relations and marketing, but when I had my first child in 2006, I put that aside to be a stay-at-home mom and homemaker. I thought one day I would go back to a career, but when our first son got sick, all that changed. We never imagined the journey we were about to embark on with both of our children, or what was to come because of what we had experienced and gone through.
MCA: It is unimaginable. A Bear Finds His Purpose is not only a beautiful story, but one that is very close to your (and your family’s) heart. Can you share more of your story with us?
Christina: Our first son Caleb was diagnosed at 3 weeks old with a genetic immune disorder and required a bone marrow transplant in order to survive. He received his transplant in 2008 at the age of 18 months old. He unfortunately sustained a brain injury and stroke during his treatment process, which devastated us to see what he went through. Fast forward 4 years and we had our second son, Caden, who at 6 weeks old was also diagnosed with the same genetic immune disorder. He, too, went through a bone marrow transplant in 2013, at the age of 15 months old. We were again devastated to not only go through the transplant process once but twice!
While Caden was going through his transplant and staying at the hospital, a close family friend gave him a teddy bear for comfort. This small act of kindness is what sparked the idea of The Caden Project and our non-profit called Compassionate Hearts For Kids. We witnessed so much pain and suffering while in the hospital with both of our sons that we are now dedicated to showing compassion and love to other kids and their families by giving our own “Caden” teddy bears to sick kids in the hospital. Any amount of comfort while these children are there is so valuable.
MCA: What a selfless ambition, and one that was born of true empathy and understanding of what these kids and families are going through. What would you say is the biggest thing that children (and families) going through a bone marrow transplant need? What did your own boys need?
Christina: Most importantly, they need support from family and friends. It could be a visit at the hospital just to sit and talk, someone sitting with their child so they can go home and take a nap or a shower, bringing home cooked meals to the hospital or to their house for the other parent and siblings that have to stay back at home. It’s about helping to decrease the burden as much as possible, or offering to help in any way to lighten the load that the family is facing.
Our boys were well taken care of as they were both at amazing hospitals, so their needs were met, thankfully. Us as moms and dads seem to neglect ourselves during intense times like these, though, and most of us won’t ask for help, as we think we need to appear as though we “have it all together”… when in reality we don’t. So, it’s really just taking the initiative, even if we say we don’t need anything, or that we are fine. Just doing something, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, is huge, because, believe me from personal experience, the small acts of kindness make the biggest impact!
MCA: That is so often the case, that the smallest acts are the biggest. Thank you for sharing your experience. It’s so inspiring that through these hard experiences your nonprofit was born! Can you tell us more about The Caden Project and your book A Bear Finds His Purpose?
Christina: This year we are very excited to announce the launch of our very first children’s book called A Bear Finds His Purpose. This is, of course, the true story about our family and what we do, but it also has a meaningful, teachable message behind it that can be shared. We added what we call “The Caden Project Challenge” page at the end of the story to hopefully help parents teach their children how they can make a difference in someone’s life, no matter how small or insignificant they may think it is. Small acts of kindness go a long way and can brighten someone’s day when they really need it!
Our children’s book combo comes with a miniature “Caden” teddy bear and a reusable tote bag. We wanted a way for people to bring a part of The Caden Project home with them and to have a teachable message that could be shared with their child. A way to teach kids about giving to others. Through this book/bear combo, the proceeds will allow us to reach more kids and make an impact in more lives!
MCA: In your book, the little bear does end up finding his purpose in life. Using your story, what do you hope to communicate to children about finding their own purpose?
Christina: We are all wired to have a purpose in life. We are not just to live here on earth, work hard, raise a family and grow old. There’s so much more to life that I think people are missing out on, and that’s our purpose while we are here. We all have a unique purpose that God has given us each individually, but it all comes back to not what we can do for ourselves but what we can do for someone else; how we can have a significant impact in the lives of others.
In the story, we helped the bears find their purpose: to bring comfort to sick kids. I believe we all need to discover what our purpose is then go after it full steam. Once we are living our given purpose, there is nothing more fulfilling. Some people may not know what their purpose is or have even considered that they have one at all. My encouragement to them is to start doing some soul searching. What are their passions? What are they good at? What skills do they have? Now, take those things and consider how can they use them to help others.
MCA: What a great encouragement towards living a life that is bigger than yourself! When you think of the future, what are your dreams for The Caden Project?
Christina: We have a big vision and dream! We have currently been doing our bear deliveries at children’s hospitals here in Florida, but we want to take it nationwide and travel to children’s hospitals in other states, and even internationally as well! We also want to go on the road to speaking engagements, TV and radio interviews, and share our story while having our book/bear combo available for people to purchase. All the proceeds from this will help us grow and continue to reach more kids. We also hope parents will begin to teach their children what they can do for others, even at a young age, and that the The Caden Project Challenge will launch a “pay it forward” or “ripple effect” momentum.
Going through what we’ve gone through with both of our boys, and also witnessing what other families are going through, has truly inspired us to do what we can to inspire, bring hope and encourage others with a small act of kindness through a little teddy bear who we helped find his purpose.
Will you take The Caden Project Challenge and possibly find your purpose?
A big heartfelt thanks to Christina for spending some time sharing her family’s story with us. If you’d like to find out more about The Caden Project, please check them out on Youtube, or visit their website and Facebook page.