Letters of Love Club Shares the Love

by | Feb 2024

Grace Berbig

Grace Berbig. Photos: Chris Emeott

Grace Berbig shepherds a global club, spreading love and support through letters.

When Grace Berbig thinks of her mother, Amanda Berbig, she feels the sensation of warmth and sunshine. She sees a young woman donning poofy dresses with flowers in her hair and a smile that radiated from the inside out. She recalls her mother’s laughter as they climbed apple trees in the backyard of their Maple Grove home. And she remembers the love notes that graced their lunch boxes each day.

“She really was the best mom,” says Berbig, now of Long Lake. So, when her mother passed away from leukemia in 2013 at just 31 years old, Berbig’s world came crashing down. “It broke my heart,” she says. “The most severe pain I’ve ever felt in my life.” Berbig and her sisters, Bella and Sophie, credit their dad as a “catalyst for coping” following their mother’s death. “He told us losing our mom could ruin our lives,” she says. “Our job was to let our mother’s joy live through us.” Berbig became determined to honor her mother’s life. “I didn’t want her to be forgotten.”

Today, Berbig is the founder and president of Letters of Love, a nonprofit organization that distributes handmade letters, cards and pictures to children in hospitals around the world. In the five years since its inception, Letters of Love has tallied more than 180 clubs in 31 states and 18 countries. Thus far, its members have created 200,000 cards and counting.

Letters of Love Card

Spreading Happiness

Berbig was just a fifth grader when she lost her mother. And though no one would have blamed her for staying in her sorrow, Berbig chose otherwise. “I believe happiness is a choice we have to make every day,” she says.

Not only did Berbig choose to be happy, but she also chose to be helpful. “I wanted to help people in similar situations [to my mother’s],” she says. “I felt it was my responsibility.”

In junior high, Berbig (then 16) got involved raising money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, but that felt like it wasn’t enough. She kept looking for opportunities to be helpful, but it wasn’t until the family moved from Maple Grove to Orono, and Berbig started at Orono High School (OHS), that she had her lightbulb moment. “I remembered the cards,” she says.

Orono High School students showcase letters they crafted to brighten the spirits of ailing children.

Orono High School students showcase letters they crafted to brighten the spirits of ailing children.

When her mother was in the hospital, all three Berbig sisters kept themselves busy drawing cards and pictures for her after school. “She would go through every one,” Berbig says. “In every hospital room, she would plaster all of these drawings all over her room.”

Berbig knew how much those drawings meant to her mom, and she wanted to share that feeling with others in the hospital. So, she took to Instagram to invite friends to join her in the school art room to make cards for ill children after school. “I bought something like 15 donuts,” she says. “But we had 100 kids pile into the art room. It was completely packed. We made so many cards that day.”

Letters of Love started as a passion project and turned into a global nonprofit with the goal of changing the world with kindness—one card at a time.

Letters of Love started as a passion project and turned into a global nonprofit with the goal of changing the world with kindness—one card at a time.

School staff recognized that the idea was a hit and encouraged Berbig to continue. “They said, ‘Grace, you have to keep this going,’” she says. By the end of the year, Letters of Love was the biggest club at OHS. Berbig started fielding calls from students at other schools interested in starting their own Letters of Love clubs, and she soon realized that the club could be bigger than her and bigger than OHS. She decided to make it a 501(c)(3) nonprofit a year later in 2019. “It was such a huge accomplishment,” she says.

Growing Clubs

Five years after it was founded, the original Letters of Love club at OHS is going strong with anywhere from 75–100 students in grades nine through 12 attending monthly meetings. “Making cards with encouraging words for children, who are struggling with illness, is really a simple idea, but the impact benefits everyone involved,” says Kristin Frey, who served as the school’s club advisor for Letters of Love last year.

These days, Berbig says they are constantly adding new clubs to the organization. Several high schools in the Twin Cities area have started their own clubs, including Edina, Lakeville, Maple Grove, Prior Lake and White Bear Lake.

Maple Grove Senior High launched its 20-member Letters of Love club in February 2023. “The main reason that we started this club was because we want to make a child smile in a very dark time in their lives,” says Payton Lund, student liaison for the club. “I wanted these children to know that they have people that are here for them.”

Orono High School board members of the school’s Letters of Love help lead the club.

Orono High School board members of the school’s Letters of Love help lead the club.

Healing Art

Berbig vets every card the nonprofit receives before sending them on to partner hospitals. She loves to see the variety of art—from little kids’ scribbles and “I love yous” to the sweet side of college football players. There are connect-the-dots cards, jokes and even homemade word games. “It’s so beautiful to see the art of the human letter,” she says.

“As a math teacher, it always impresses me how creative and artistic students are,” Frey says. “That is something I don’t always see on homework!” She knows the students are making a difference with their creations and recalls a story of speaking about the club with one of her neighbors, who is a nurse at a local hospital. “She has seen our cards in the rooms of children at the hospital and shared the impact that they make,” Frey says. “Children were excited to read them and see them on their walls.”

Setting Goals

Although Letters of Love has exceeded Berbig’s expectations, she continues to set new goals for the organization, including establishing a club in every state, sending the first letter from space (“We call NASA every week,” she says.) and securing more corporate sponsors to help offset costs.

Berbig remains determined to keep the clubs free for participants, including materials, but says that comes at a cost of roughly $200 a month per club. “I’d love to partner with Hallmark on Letters of Love greeting cards,” Berbig says. “And Crayola on supplies.”

In addition, Berbig wants to make Letters of Love her full-time job. “I feel so lucky to have found my passion so early in life.” She says working with the nonprofit definitely makes her feel closer to her late mom. “I think she would be really happy about it,” she says, adding, “The whole organization is built on her happiness, her love.”

Creating Connection

Siena Tompkins was a recipient of Letters of Love, and she never forgot how that mail made her feel. “Receiving a card from Letters of Love gave me a connection to the outside world when I was confined to the four walls of my hospital room,” she says. “It really struck me, in that moment, that somewhere out there a stranger had decided to put [colored] pencil to paper with the sole intention of bringing a smile to someone else’s face even though they wouldn’t be there to see it. To me, it meant that I was seen by a community outside of my own, who didn’t even need to meet me to support me.”

Tompkins still remembers how beautiful the cards were that she received. “Every single one felt genuine,” she says. “I could tell that the people who made those cards cared for and were excited about what they were doing. The simplicity of writing a card is what I find so beautiful about the mission of Letters of Love.”

So touched by the experience, Tompkins volunteered with the nonprofit. “Volunteering with Letters of Love makes you part of something so much bigger than any one individual, and that higher sense of purpose is an inspiring feeling,” she says.

“[Berbig’s] confidence and enthusiasm when receiving me into the [Letters of Love] family was what I needed to remind myself that, to the right people, you will always be whole, always be good enough,” Tompkins says. “She is the human embodiment of a ray of sunshine. There is no one better suited for this mission than her.”

Letters of Love
Facebook: Letters of Love
Instagram: @lettersofloveglobal


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