written by Amy Doan | photo by Rusty Aperture Photography
Pediatric nurse Lyndsee Wunn thought she was familiar with the foster care system. But nothing prepared her for what she experienced when she and her husband, Geoffrey, became foster parents in 2012.
“We filed the paperwork on a Thursday, got the phone call that there was a drug-affected infant who needed a home the next Monday, and picked him up Wednesday,” said Wunn, 37. “It was head-spinning.”
In May 2014, the Wunns adopted their foster son, Cooper, and he’s now a happy, healthy 2-year-old who loves to play with his older brother Landon, the Wunns’ biological son.
But there are thousands of other children like Cooper who haven’t yet found a permanent home. Wunn wanted to give them a bit of comfort, control and security during what can be a scary, chaotic time. Just weeks after Cooper’s adoption, Wunn launched the nonprofit Boxes of Love, which provides foster children with a box of new clothing, stuffed animals, toiletries and books to call their own.
“People don’t realize how quickly these children have to leave their homes,” said Wunn. “There’s rarely time to grab a favorite blanket or anything familiar. They’re moving from place to place all the time, and if they do have possessions, they have to carry them around in garbage bags.”
Wunn started Boxes of Love with some casual donation requests on Facebook, at first assembling and delivering the boxes by herself from her home in Troutdale. Now she has two part-time volunteers. Together they’ve delivered more than 100 boxes and work with social workers at local hospitals. Her goal is to eventually provide boxes for every foster child in the Portland area.
“I’ve been a pediatric social worker for twenty-one years, and I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Shannon Boreson, a licensed clinical social worker at Randall Children’s Hospital in Portland. “There’s so much love inside those boxes. It’s a fresh start, a patch of brightness in what can be a sad situation stemming from abuse and neglect.”
Each box is worth about $500 and is tailored around the children’s ages, which range from a few days to eighteen years old. Infants and babies get teethers and burp cloths. Older children get backpacks and styleconscious teenagers appreciate clothing gift cards. All boxes include the book Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, and Wunn always tucks in a personal note that says in part:
“I know that right now, things may be difficult and somewhat confusing, but it is so important for me to let you know that you are loved. You are amazing. You are brave, courageous and strong…Always remember that you are special and you are loved.”