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Nonprofit pairs pediatric patients with companies for creative collaboration

Nonprofit pairs pediatric patients with companies for creative collaboration

Nonprofit pairs pediatric patients with companies for creative collaboration
September 19
11:30 2019

Every seat in Charming at the Market’s workshop room was filled last Saturday evening. People had come to observe a floral demonstration, watching intently as one of the demonstrators carefully assembled stems of basil, roses and red zinnia into a little gold vase. She was not a professional florist, but rather 11-year old Makenna, recreating the floral arrangement she designed called Makenna’s Masterpiece.

Makenna Rudolph puts fresh flowers in her arrangement at Charming at The Market on Sept. 14, 2019. Image by Meredith Holser

Makenna is an ambassador for Salood, a new DFW nonprofit co-founded by Joshua Castillo from Las Colinas and Kenny Freeland from Dallas. Salood, which is a spin on the word salud meaning good health, is an outpatient and business co-op that pairs pediatric patients with companies to make a unique product, and the proceeds from the sale of that product benefit the child’s family. The goal is to offer patients a way to express their creativity while also raising money for the family. Salood’s first launch event was held on Sept. 14 and paired Makenna with Charming at the Market in Dallas to make her own bouquet.

“Not only are we giving a patient the opportunity to create something really cool and unique, but I also want to provide hope,”
Castillo said.

Freeland and Castillo met in college and have been friends for about seven years. Castillo was inspired to start the non-profit after seeing a family in an airport where it appeared the child had cancer. He said he thought about the expenses associated with pediatric care, and after doing some research, he found that few organizations provide families with direct financial assistance. Castillo then met up with Freeland to bounce ideas off of each other. Freeland said he had a personal connection with the issue because he was frequently in the hospital as a child.

“I could really relate to what he was talking about from a pediatric standpoint,” Freeland said. “You’re being a young, ambitious kid who’s stuck in a hospital surrounded by adults, but you still have that creativity in you and you’re looking for an outlet.”

After coming up with the idea for Salood, Freeland and Castillo spent the last eight to 10 months bringing it to life, researching other nonprofits and foundations and networking with companies and hospitals. Salood officially became a nonprofit in June of 2019.

Finding a company willing to collaborate is the first step in their process. Once Salood finds that partnership, they seek out a patient to be their ambassador. This patient creates their own special product with the company, which is released at a launch event and available for purchase. Freeland said Salood can also help families who don’t want to be ambassadors in the public eye, as those who would rather stay private are still elligible for financial assistance.

Makenna Rodolph is Salood’s first ambassador. She was diagnosed with leukemia in 2015 and has been cancer-free for 19 months. Castillo said they matched with her because they were looking for someone energetic and outgoing, and he described her as the “coolest 11-year-old in the world.”

Salood co-founder Kenny Freeland speaks about Makenna’s story at Charming at The Market on Sept. 14, 2019. The nonprofit collaborated with Makenna and her family to fundraise for their family as well as other pediatric patients. Image by Meredith Holser

“I cannot picture a more ideal patient to work with,” Freeland said. “Just from the beginning, she walks in and has one of the most infectious personalities that makes you smile.”

Freeland talked to Makenna’s mother about the financial side of pediatric care that the kids don’t really see. He said she mentioned how hospital copays, gas from driving to and from the hospital and food from eating out because you’re never home has made for a costly few years.

“Actually meeting a kid like Makenna who is a patient in remission and going through it, and then seeing her mom who is the mother of someone who just went through that and to talk about the emotional challenges that come with it, but also the financial challenges — that just showed us the ‘why’ behind what we’re doing even more than we ever thought it would,” Freeland said.

Jennifer Rodolph, a Frisco resident and Makenna’s mother, said she was contacted about the opportunity four to six weeks ago by a social worker from the hospital. Rodolph said Freeland and Castillo have been working hard to make Salood and the launch event for Makenna successful.

“[Salood] has a lot of growth potential, versus just asking for donors,” Rodolph said. “I think that’s what makes it unique is that they’re actually having a product, and that it’s got the special aspect to it.”

Alicia Clay, a Seagoville resident and the co-owner and creative director of Charming at the Market, has been preparing for the launch event with Freeland and Castillo for around six months. The three met Makenna at her store in mid-August, and Clay said Makenna was very intentional in creating her floral arrangement. She chose a gold vase to represent the childhood cancer ribbon.

“I thought that was so intuitive of her as a young girl to even think about that, which also just kind of contributes to her journey,” Clay said. “She thinks way outside the box.”

The launch event, which ran from 4:30 to 7 p.m. at Charming at the Market, aimed to share Makenna’s story while also promoting Salood. The event featured food and drinks, live music and a demonstration from Clay and Makenna showing how they created the bouquet. This was the first time customers were able to buy Makenna’s Masterpiece, which will be sold for $65 both in store and online. Freeland said in preparing for the event, they mulled over the small details to ensure that the launch was as special for Makenna as possible.

“What kind of music does she like?” Freeland said. “What kind of snacks does she like? [We considered] all those little things so that when she gets there, she really realizes, yes, this is a flower shop, but this is about me and my story.”

The months of work that went into creating Salood and hosting the first launch event included some challenges along the way. Freeland said that in order to be innovative, you have to be OK with being misunderstood by others, and they were frequently turned down.

“Having to talk to people and sell them on your idea is difficult because they could either go with it or shut the door on you,” Castillo said. “You never know if they are going to misunderstand you or not get the importance of the cause, so that was nerve-racking.”

Castillo and Freeland are looking forward to their next partnership, which they said will allow a patient to collaborate with a T-shirt company. Salood will stay local for now, but eventually Castillo wants to expand to cities like Austin, Houston and San Antonio. He said he dreams of having kids design Nike shoes or McDonald’s McFlurries. Ultimately, though, he said their mission is to spread hope, and both Freeland and Castillo said that seeing their work come together makes the challenges worth it.

“Seeing [the patients] smiling and having fun during the collaboration, you’re like, ‘I want to give this opportunity to everybody,’” Freeland said.

Makenna’s Masterpiece is available for purchase at Charming at the Market in Dallas or online at https://www.charmingeventscompany.com/flowers/makennas-masterpiece.

Featured Image: Store co-owner Alicia Clay constructs “Makenna’s Masterpiece” at Charming at The Market on Sept. 14, 2019. Image by Meredith Holser

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Haley Arnold

Haley Arnold

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