Love, Olivia, Sacramento Non Profit for Children
● By David Norby
Olivia is a little girl with a fierce will to live. In her first year of life, she was hospitalized numerous times with bacterial meningitis, breathing apnea and acid reflux—near deadly combinations of the three illnesses. In those first 12 months of her life, Olivia’s mother, Karen Thernka Framnes, suffered emotionally and financially due to extreme depression and overwhelming medical expenses. She lost her job, her home and her car, not to mention her pride. “But I didn’t lose Olivia!” says Framnes. “She is my angel. Olivia’s feisty nature motivated me to overcome the obstacles. And with the help of my husband, Kjell, we chose to use our experiences to support others in the same situation, because we knew we weren’t the only ones.”
Inspired by their daughter, who has since been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and intellectual disability, along with other medical challenges, the Framnes family founded Love, Olivia—an organization that provides children who have special needs with clothing, shoes, toys and books, while offering families community resources and financial assistance.
As she was developing the charity, Framnes discovered two glaring voids within the community. One, there was no organization that collected donations solely for children with special needs. Secondly, charitable organizations that provide financial assistance often have limits on disabilities. Framnes explains, “If a child’s diagnosis is rare, he or she most likely will not find an organization to help them financially if needed. Since it’s the children with rare medical and physical conditions who typically need more assistance, we wanted to change those boundaries.”
Love, Olivia’s holiday efforts have been particularly successful, as they have provided donations to over 30 families and more than 1,000 children. In addition to toys, the items include gift cards for groceries, gas and restaurants. And there is evidence that the recipients make progress. “We had one family come back to us two years later and say that they were doing better, and they wanted to pay it forward,” recalls Framnes. “They made a meaningful donation to Love, Olivia, fulfilling the holiday wishes for at least 10 children that year.”
Framnes describes the joy of seeing big smiles on little faces. “Once I went to a home of a family with a child suffering from severe medical challenges,” she says. “They hadn’t been able to celebrate Christmas for two years due to financial hardships. When I brought in the Christmas gifts, the mother cried and hugged me, and the kids were smiling from ear to ear. I can’t express the happiness I feel when I see those precious smiles.”
Alison Winter is a board member of Love, Olivia who became involved through the Rocklin MOMS Club. She says the group doesn’t only provide donations, but also comfort to families who are going through challenging experiences. “Karen, Kjell and Olivia are inspirational,” she says. “They help families understand that they’re not alone.”
This coming May, the organization will hold its annual golf tournament; other planned fund-raisers include garage sales, restaurant nights and the annual Love, Olivia Holiday Boutique in November.