Seven years ago, we started a project. It was a little project — inspired by a little guy we know as the “Little Lion Man,” and every person who helped us during the first three years of his life. We simply asked our friends, family members, and (cool) progeny readers to do something kind.  And although Little Lion Challenge was inspired by Brennan’s tenacity and the kindness that buoyed our whole family during a rather tumultuous time in our lives, the project has grown beyond the curious, funny, smart, empathic little boy who has made huge roars. It’s become so much more than a passion project for our little family.

A few weeks ago, I had the honor of addressing GBMC healthcare professionals as part of their Adams Rounds series. The topic of discussion was how various families in our area are giving back after enduring tough medical traumas. Three of us presented and one of the recurring themes in all three stories was how hard transitions are on families who are in the middle of a health care crisis.  Brennan’s story involves four big care transitions in the first four months of his life — from the GBMC NICU to Johns Hopkins Children’s Center’s NICU,  to Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital, back to Johns Hopkins Children’s Center’s NICU, and finally home.  Each time we moved to a new hospital, we found ourselves inundated with new caregivers, new systems, new protocols, new medications, new rules, and having to start building a foundation of trust with a large group of strangers in a sea of unknowns. Even the transition home came with a house full of medical supplies, home nursing care, case managers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, days of appointments, and binders full of protocols. 

Little Lion Man

Navigating the transitions isn’t so much hard as it is exhausting. You’re existing in constant fight-or-flight mode. It’s a type of exhaustion you can’t quite understand until you’re in the thick of it. It’s also one that you move beyond and tend to forget after you’re out of the crisis. At least I did, until I found myself sitting in a room years later with 100+ doctors, nurses, and therapists trying to explain the NICU parent healthcare experience.

I think that’s why Patrick and I feel so strongly that we want to make sure parents — and all caregivers — of medically complex kids feel supported. And why every Little Lion Challenge Day we deliver care packages to area NICUs and partner with different businesses to help lift the burden a bit. 

It’s the small acts of kindness that really make a big roar. 

This February 11th is our 7th Annual Little Lion Challenge Day. Please join us and help us make a HUGE roar. It’s easy! Here’s how…

Little Lion Challenge Day


Donate An Item From The Wishlist

Each year, we put together care packages to distribute to area NICUs. You can help by donating an item from our Amazon Wishlist (items range from $6-$50). In addition to the Family Care Packages, we try to provide NICUs with packages for siblings who come to visit so you’ll see some of those items on the list, too. (Please purchase your items by January 31st so we can put the care packages together in time for delivery the next week!)

“Adopt” a Family

Would you rather make a tax-deductible donation to Little Lion Challenge? “Adopt” a family and make a donation. Your generosity will sponsor a care package for family with a child currently in the NICU or one caring for a child with complex medical issues at home.  Just $35 provides a NICU care package, which includes toiletry items like hand lotion and toothpaste for mom and dad, a journal to record notes, snack/coffee gift card for nourishment, lion lovey for their little one, and a board book to read to their infant. 

Make a Card

Did you know that ALL of our care packages come with handmade cards, thanks to our wonderful community and the creative team at Fresh Cut Crafts? It’s the perfect give-back activity for kids! We’ll be making cards at our Healthy Heart Play Date, Port Discovery Day Off Adventure Play Date, and our Roaring at the Library Tot Time. Join us for one of those events or send us an email and let us know you’re interested in making cards! (It’s the perfect activity for a class or school club!)

Take the Little Lion Challenge

The whole premise of Little Lion Challenge is that small acts of kindness make a BIG ROAR. Challenge your family, your coworkers, or even your students to do something kind on February 11th. Buy someone a cup of coffee. Thank a first responder. Drop off a donation at pet shelter. Give someone a compliment. The possibilities are endless (and we have 100 ideas for things you can do right here). We know you don’t want to toot your own horn, but it’s pretty darn powerful to see kindness in action — and makes a huge impact on the kids participating in the project. So post about your kind deed, group project or how you challenged your family to social media and TAG @LittleLionChallenge and use the hashtag #LittleLionChallenge. We’ll re-share!

Small Business Give Back

Are you a local business owner? We’re looking for partners to help with some special projects for Little Lion Challenge Day. If you’re a restaurant, salon, flower shop, or professional service that wants to help — let us know! We could use you!