In our culture, we baby children and romanticize childhood. We often forget that kids can also inspire and do amazing things.
Such is the case with the Little Saint Nick Foundation, whose motto is “Kids inspiring and helping kids.”
The Little Saint Nick Foundation is a non-profit that strives to put smiles on kids in crisis through the compassionate help of other children. It helps to inspire and comfort children who find themselves in a scary situation such as a children’s hospital, where fear and anxiety are the norm.
With the contributions of kids who are often of similar ages to the children they help, the foundation regularly provides simple, anti-anxiety gift bags that typically include a coloring book, crayons, a stuffed animal, a Pop It toy, and a hand-made get-well card made by a like-minded child. Thanks to these efforts, over 300 children receive gift bags and other gifts every single day. Their work provides inspiration for sick and struggling kids, a positive distraction for parents, and helps teach child volunteers valuable leadership skills that can change their lives and benefit communities.
The Little Saint Nick Foundation empowers children to help other children, one smile at a time. They help make the trauma of a medical experience less scary and remind struggling children of the joys of childhood, especially during extremely trying times.
The Beginning of a Philanthropic Journey at 4 Years Old
It all began when Little Saint Nick Foundation Founder Raymond Mohler, Jr. suffered from a rare hip joint disease found mostly in young children. At the age of four, Ray experienced debilitating pain in his hips and couldn’t walk.
But it was the boredom he found to be most excruciating. It’s tough on a four-year-old to spend all day in a hospital bed.
Fortunately, he was quickly discharged and able to recover at home, but he couldn’t stop thinking about the other children he met and played with during his medical experience. He asked his parents if they too got to go home. His father explained that many of these children could be in the hospital for days, months, or even years – their medical journeys sometimes continue throughout their lives.
That news shocked young Ray – he couldn’t believe other kids could spend years in a hospital bed recovering.
He asked how he could help. Born on Christmas Eve, Ray spent his fifth birthday giving away his birthday and Christmas gifts to other kids still in the hospital. He gave his toys away freely and started his journey in philanthropy at an age when many kids have trouble simply sharing their toys with other children.
“It was such a great feeling, and naturally I wanted to do more,” Ray said. “The following holiday season, I again gave my own gifts and got friends and family to donate. The next year, we contributed three times as many presents as the year before.”
With the help of his parents, who work in heating and cooling repair for a living, the Little Saint Nick Foundation was born.
As Ray grew up, he kept at it. Throughout his childhood, he reached out for community donations and increased gift contributions to children, steadily expanding the foundation and helping more kids.
The Healing Inspiration of Kids Helping Other Kids
The Healing Inspiration of Kids Helping Other Kids
Fast-forward to 2016: The Little Saint Nick Foundation was featured in a Nickelodeon special highlighting 10 kids across the country doing important community work. Ray was preparing for college at the Univesity of Tampa when he received an email from Agha Haider, a 13-year-old in St. Louis who saw the special while binge-watching TV and recovering from a broken leg. Agha told Ray he wanted to do what Ray was doing in St. Louis and help put a smile on struggling kids’ lives.
Over several months of correspondence, the two decided to launch the Little Saint Nick’s Foundation in St. Louis. Humanity Media, who helped design and build the foundation’s website and ran a PR campaign, resulting in an article in the Huffington Post and an interview on Fox News, sent a film crew and documented the foundation's first toy giveaway in St. Louis.
It was a profound emotional experience watching kids on ventilators, in wheelchairs, hooked to IVs, some with heads shaved from cancer treatments, light up with the visit from Little Saint Nick Foundation volunteers, many of whom were kids their own age.
That’s when the motto, “Kids inspiring and helping kids,” was born, with the help of Humanity Media’s creative consulting. Ray and our team realized the mission was more than just helping sick kids feel better, but teaching other children the value of community action and helping others just like them.
Contagious Kindness and the Healing Inspiration of Giving
It was the focus on volunteers not only changing kids’ lives but profoundly impacting their own that proved to be a turning point for the foundation. Since we’ve gotten to know him from the time he was a child, Ray holds a pretty incredible space – he carries himself with such composure and kindness. He maintains an altruistic nature that is simply inspiring and contagious. And he’s helped countless child volunteers discover value and joy in the spirit of giving in a way that has profoundly impacted their lives.
With Humanity Media’s help, the Little Saint Nick Foundation has expanded from leveraging $100,000 in donations to a million dollars every year.
Ray graduated from the University of Tampa in 2020 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Entrepreneurship. This past Christmas Eve, Ray turned 25 and has helped duplicate the foundation's work in cities across the U.S. His goal is to expand the program to all 50 states while still maintaining a local focus on local kids helping sick children in local hospitals. Though he’s taking the program nationally, it’s that local approach – kids helping their own communities – that continues to be the focus of the program.
Every $10 donated purchases another gift bag and helps another child. But kids can contribute to the program without spending a cent. The foundation offers a Get Well Card template kids can download, color, and contribute their own cards to inspire sick children with smiles.
Kids inspiring and helping other kids is a national movement. These children in sick wards have a profoundly meaningful experience because the gift is given by a kid like them. The experience changes not only their lives, but the lives of the volunteers themselves.
Giving is a gift. It heals all those it touches – both recipient and giver.
As Luke 6, Verse 38 teaches:
“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”
Or as the Beatles sang on Abby Road: “So in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
Kids understand this best – and we as adults have many lessons we can learn from them.
Give, inspire, and inspire to give. That’s the mission of the Little Saint Nick Foundation – one gift, one smile, and one heart at a time. Because when you open up, the love pours through and heals everyone involved, including ourselves.
Giving is happiness – smile and experience the joy.