The UNC Heel-Gram club, founded in response to the pandemic, sends pen pal letters and personalized letters to individuals with disabilities in the hospital.
The club was created by seniors Catie Bobetich and MacKenzie Maddox to help connect the UNC students to hospitalized people with disabilities.
Maddox has an extended family member who regularly received letters from his community over quarantine. In seeing how much he enjoyed them, she was inspired to bring that dynamic to UNC.
Members are assigned pen pals, and each letter is tailored to the interests of the recipient. Some letters are also themed around different holidays and seasons throughout the year.
Reagan Fleeher, the current social media chair and business administration major, said she has enjoyed getting to know her pen pal.
“My pen pal and I have exchanged at least 15 letters throughout this semester,” she said. “She's a big fan of romance novels and always updates me on what she’s reading.”
And the club is on the rise. Heel-Gram currently has 52 members, with 17 more already signed up to join next semester. The club is also working with several organizations around North Carolina, including EasterSeals, Special Olympics, Camp Royall and Gigi's Playhouse, to connect with people across the state.
Neuroscience major McKenna Griffin is Heel-Gram’s continuous improvement chair and said she works closely with these organizations. She also said she does a lot of research on people with disabilities and how to interact with them in a way that’s beneficial for all parties.
Fleeher said there are certain benefits of sending physical letters as opposed to digital messages.