This story is part of the 9NEWS Mornings series 'Crushin' It,' where we're highlighting young people in our community who are doing great things. See the stories on 9NEWS at 6 a.m.
When Madelene Kleinhans was 7, her brother was diagnosed with leukemia. The ensuing 38 months of chemotherapy meant the whole family was spending a lot of time at the hospital.
It was tough on both siblings – including Kleinhans, who wanted to choose a toy from a donation box meant for cancer patients.
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“I asked the nurse if I could have some, like pick a toy from the box, and she said no, and I just remember being so mad at her, I was like ‘what?’” Kleinhans said.
So, the now-17-year-old came up with a plan.
“I just wanted to do something like, to help out everyone because I thought it was really unfair only sick kids could pick from the box,” she said.
This desire to be “fair” led her to create Heartfelt Hugs, a nonprofit meant to create fun events and opportunities for the siblings of cancer patients.
“There are a lot of kids that have depression, they commit suicide, they get into drug and alcohol abuse when their sibling got diagnosed,” Kleinhans said.
Kleinhans’ brother Addison beat leukemia, so trips to the hospital are far less frequent.
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“It’s pretty cool, to see her, you know?” Addison Kleinhans said. “ [17-year-old girls] usually hang out with their friends, maybe go to parties, they don’t start a nonprofit. So I’m proud of her and I think it’s super cool that she found a problem in her life and she didn’t just sit there, she found something she could do.”
Madelene Kleinhans’ work has been recognized many times over with multiple awards.
“The Prudential Spirit of Community Award that I have is probably the most important one that I have because I got flown to Washington D.C. and it was a really great week,” Kleinhans said.
Heartfelt Hugs now provides free events every two months for the siblings of critically ill children. According to the nonprofit’s website, those events have grown to having up to 100 participants!
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