ORLANDO, Fla. — Reilly Cardella decided it was time to get a tattoo when she turned 18. The decision and was easy – a ladybug on her ankle.
“(It was) just to kind of have her memory with me forever,” she said.
The tattoo came to honor her childhood friend, Kassie, who died from cancer at the age of 13. This year marks a decade since she lost her friend.
That made it the perfect year to start a charity in her honor, too.
“I only knew her for about two years. We just instantly became friends,” explained Cardella, 22, who grew up in Michigan before moving to sunny Florida at 18.
Kassie fought cancer at eight and it returned when she turned 12. Her nickname was ‘Ladybug’. That's what made Cardella decide to start Love For Ladybug in May 2020.
The charity collects money and uses those donations to buy toys and books for kids facing cancer. So far, Cardella has sent out 20 care packages – some as far as the Philippines.
“It’s also helping other kids who are going through exactly what she went through, said Cardella. “Even though childhood cancer is a super traumatic and scary situation there is still a bit of positivity that the community can bring to these kids with her going through their treatment.”
In October, she hosted a donation drive and collected $805. That money was spent quickly as the requests for care packages poured in. The need is growing, she says, so her collection efforts ramped up. She started Amazon wish lists. She started hosting toy drives. Currently, she is hosting three toy separate drives at three different Orlando-area high schools for a week to keep her house stocked for those care packages.
“Right now, my linen closet is full,” she joked.
That’s exactly what it will take to keep the kids facing cancer smiling and the memory of Kassie alive.
“I feel like I’m creating friends and opening myself up to a whole new community of friendships,” said Cardella. “It’s very special.”
Each care package is catered to the recipient’s likes. Parents fill out a Love For Ladybug questionnaire and Cardella uses that to craft a gift that will truly match each child.
To help, check out Love For Ladybug’s Amazon Wish List.