WINNETKA — Since founding Cards2Kids in 2010, New Trier High School senior John Makowiec and his team of volunteers have been very busy.
The organization, which collects donated sports cards and gives them to children, partners with charities such as the Boys and Girls Club of Chicago and Children’s Memorial Hospital and has handled over 1 million sports cards.
This summer Makowiec was invited to the National Sports Collectors Convention in Rosemont as Upper Deck donated booth space so Cards2Kids could collect donations. At the convention’s VIP reception July 31, Upper Deck had a surprise waiting for Makowiec.
As part of the company’s Heroic Inspirations series Makowiec was presented with a trading card of his own, though this version would have trouble fitting inside a familiar pack of cards.
“I did not see it coming,” Makowiec said of the oversized card he was given. “It’s really cool. I couldn’t stop smiling.”
Makowiec didn’t bask in the honor long, however, as almost immediately he asked the VIP crowd to donate any extra cards to his Cards2Kids booth as the convention got underway.
In Dec. 2010 Makowiec already had a few service projects under his belt. Though they were fulfilling to him he was still searching for something he could be passionate about.
“While the projects were good they didn’t exactly strike home with me,” Makowiec said. “I thought about things that really mean a lot to me and how I could give back. I thought about sports cards.”
Since then Makowiec and his team of volunteers have collected and sorted over one million cards. The cards are divided based on condition, year and whether a player is a hall of famer. Packs of 20 are then given to children in hospitals to hopefully bring smiles to their faces.
“We’re always looking for volunteers,” Makowiec said. “One thing we’ve done recently is reach out to nursing homes to help us sort the cards. We went to Sedgebrook in Lincolnshire and we packed 150 packs in an hour.”
Makowiec has expanded his organization too, reaching out to the east coast with ambassadors in Washington DC and New Jersey. Upper Deck previously brought Makowiec to a sports convention in Toronto where he was able to collect cards and donate to children in Canada.
Previous recipients of Heroic Inspirations cards include 7-year-old cancer survivor Jack Hoffman, who famously ran for a touchdown with the Nebraska Cornhuskers football team, and Daniel “Doc” Jacobs, an Iraq War veteran who tried out for the Los Angeles Dodgers despite losing his leg in battle.
The giant presentation card now sits in Makowiec’s home and he is hoping to organize another sorting event later this year.
“We’re working on something,” Makowiec said. “It’s been really cool for everyone.”
Cards2Kids accepts donated cards at Bleachers Sports, 557 Chestnut St. in Winnetka, and Elite Sportscards, Comics & Gaming Cards at 2028 W. Montrose Ave. in Chicago. For more information visit cards2kids.org.