Cool Kids Campaign
The Cool Kids Campaign is a local nonprofit devoted to making the lives of pediatric oncology patients better while they go through their cancer treatments. We are committed to addressing the academic, social and emotional growth that suffers due to the lasting side effects of cancer and its treatments.
Houses of Hope
The Houses of Hope project is designed to allow these kids the chance to express themselves as a person, not just a cancer patient or statistic. Every year, in the Baltimore area alone, Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital, University of Maryland Children’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital at Sinai treat hundreds of children for various cancers. This does not factor in the thousands of kids who are living as survivors with the long term lingering effects of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.
Cool Kids Campaign has partnered with local venues such as libraries, malls, hotels, and children’s hospitals to exhibit the 36 Houses of Hope.
How the idea came together
Although we didn’t realize it in 2009, the Houses of Hope project began when a gentleman approached Cool Kids Campaign to donate a batch of unpainted wooden birdhouses which he had constructed with his young grandson to spend time together. We eagerly accepted them, confident that a clear idea on how to use the birdhouses would pop up at some point.
We gave a birdhouse to one of our cool kids, MacKenzie Stuck, who was suffering from her third brain tumor; she loved crafts. With too much time on her hands while unable to attend school, we thought MacKenzie would enjoy decorating it. A year later, our young friend passed away after a fourth tumor. Not much thought was given by our staff about her painted birdhouse. MacKenzie’s house is pictured here.
In spring 2012 after building a working relationship with GGP Properties and three of its malls (Towson Town Center, White Marsh Mall, and The Mall in Columbia), we realized that they would be the perfect venue to create awareness about pediatric oncology, Cool Kids Campaign, and the talents of our cool kids. Aha! What better way to utilize the remaining birdhouses than asking the kids to express their journey through cancer by painting them?
Thus, Houses of Hope was born … expressing pediatric cancer through art. We developed a list of current patients and survivors, as well as some who had lost their battle. When we asked MacKenzie’s mom, Sue, to paint a birdhouse in honor of her daughter, she said, “How about the one that MacKenzie decorated before she died?”
Alas, that special birdhouse found its purpose.
Our goal with Houses of Hope is to introduce these incredibly courageous kids to the public, so that people can realize these kids are not just statistics; they are real people who belong to real families in our communities. Cancer is not always something that happens only to “someone else.” These families are your neighbors, your friends, your classmates.
We hope that through visiting our Houses of Hope exhibit at the three area malls that you will learn more about pediatric cancer and about a handful of the kids who have lived with it, lived through it, and some who have died because of it.