Mother fills blessing boxes to support parents at MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital

Melissa Varner
January 13, 2023
Vinny Talerico poses on a go-kart in the street near his home.
Vinny Talerico loved to go fast.

Just before he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, 9-year-old Vinny Talerico planted marigold seeds with his third-grade class at Charles Pinckney Elementary in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. When he was admitted to MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital for treatment, Vinny’s mom Kira says he was most worried about who would care for his marigold. His grandmother promised to watch it for him until he came home.

Vinny died April 12, 2021, just 18 days after being diagnosed. On Mother’s Day, his marigold bloomed for the first time. “It was like a gift from Heaven,” Kira Talerico said.

Two hand-decorate flower pots hold large, healthy marigold plants. A text overlay reads, "One small seed can make a big change." 
Vinny’s father Chris propagated the first marigold. The family now has a garden of marigolds they call “Vinny’s Golds.”

After Vinny passed, Kira said she felt called to return to the children’s hospital. “I really wanted to give something to support the parents who are there.”

She remembered how her community lifted them up when Vinny was in the hospital. “We got baskets of gift cards,” she said. “That was so helpful, even after he passed. They were there for us and so I just want to give that back to other parents who are struggling and may not have the community that we have.”

Kira, Chris, Chase, and Vinny Talerico pose in a family photo in front of a city skyline. 
From left, Kira Talerico, Chris, Chase and Vinny.

An idea took root, inspiring her to start a fundraiser that she named One Small Seed because of Vinny’s marigold. The money raised helps fill blessing boxes for parents at Shawn Jenkins.

Each box comes with $225 in gift cards: $100 for gas, $100 for food delivery and $25 for coffee. “Most parents are not lucky enough to live 30 minutes away like I did,” Kira said. “Many parents are traveling from all over South Carolina and have to go back and forth for work or to care for children at home.”

Group of gift boxes on a table, each with a marigold printed on the gift tag 
Each blessing box includes $225 in gift cards.

Kira said the $100 DoorDash gift card can be especially helpful for parents waiting at their child’s bedside. “Because when I was there, I would rather not eat then leave my child to get food,” she said.

She includes a $25 Starbucks gift card so parents can treat themselves, guilt-free. It's really intense to have a child in the hospital, Kira says. “You just crave sugar and a good cup of coffee, but when you're staring down big medical bills, it feels like a very selfish choice to get coffee.”

Kira raises money for the boxes through GoFundMe and Facebook. She also makes and sells clay earrings to help support the boxes. Since September, she has delivered more than 100 blessing boxes to families at the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital.

Receiving one of Kira’s blessing boxes meant a lot to Denise, a single mom whose son was recently treated at MUSC. She says the gas card was especially helpful: Taking her son to follow-up appointments at MUSC is a six-hour round trip.

Denise, who’s name was changed to protect her son’s privacy, says Kira has also inspired her to think about how she could give back. “I realized it could be something that I could start doing once I get myself situated and back on my feet,” she said.

Kira says she will keep making blessing boxes as long as God allows her too. “I will continue to do it as long as like we keep finding avenues and funds to support it,” she said.