Grace Berbig inspired a Prior Lake High School club to spread love and support through letters.
When Grace Berbig thinks of her mother, Amanda Berbig, she feels the sensation of warmth and sunshine. She recalls her 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.
So, in 2013 when her mother passed away from leukemia 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 credit their dad as their “catalyst for coping” following their mother’s death. “He told [my sisters and I] 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.
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, including a club at Prior Lake High School. Thus far, its members have created 200,000 cards and counting.
Berbig was just a fifth grader when she lost her mother. The loss inspired her to look for opportunities to be helpful, but it wasn’t until Berbig started at Orono High School, that she had her light bulb moment: “I remembered the cards,” she says.
When her mother was in the hospital, Berbig and her sisters kept themselves busy drawing cards and pictures for her after school. “In every hospital room, she would plaster all of these drawings all over her room,” Berbig says.
So, Berbig invited her friends to join her in the art room to make cards after school one day. “I bought something like 15 donuts,” she says. “But we had 100 kids pile into the art room.”
By the end of the year, Letters of Love was the biggest club at Orono High School. Berbig started fielding calls from students at other schools interested in starting their own Letters of Love clubs, so she decided to make it a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2019.
The Letters of Love Club at Prior Lake High School began in 2020 and has about 100 members, who gather in a classroom on Friday mornings before school. The club co-presidents Jenna Anderson, Chloe Magnuson and Gabi Adams bring donuts, and club members gather at tables, chatting and crafting cards with construction paper, white printer paper, stickers, markers and colored pencils. The club has fundraisers to purchase art supplies, and it also accepts donations from the community.