There aren’t many college students who can say they have impacted the lives of thousands of critically ill children and their families before they even start their nursing careers, but Madison Quinn ’23 can.

Pittsfield, MA, native Madison founded Strong Little Souls Inc., a nonprofit charity, at age 13 with a singular goal: To brighten the lives of severely ill children and their families. 

By the time she enrolled in the Elms College School of Nursing, Madison had already made an immeasurable impact in the healthcare field.

“It started with a simple direct message to families offering to send some toys,” Madison said. “I began sending small packages with money I had made from my part-time job at the time, and it just grew from there.”

Since then, Strong Little Souls has sent more than 1,500 care packages all around the world, granted more than 50 wishes to children battling life-threatening illnesses, and donated tens of thousands of dollars to families in need.  

These activities are made possible by funds raised through her website, stronglittlesouls.org, Instagram, and Facebook pages, and through grants, donations from foundations, and other sources. Last year, the New England Patriots named her a “Difference Maker of the Week,” an award that recognizes deserving volunteers who go above and beyond to give back to their community. It included a $5,000 donation to Strong Little Souls.

Thanks to the ubiquity of social media, Madison’s efforts aren’t limited to Massachusetts or even New England. She has helped families all around the world.

“We know many families in the Philippines and Africa who don’t have access to the same medical care as here,” Madison said. “So we help provide financial assistance to cover treatment costs.”

Madison is planning a career as a pediatric oncology nurse. Having visited Boston Children’s Hospital and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center many times as a patient advocate, she hopes to work in the oncology ward at one of these institutions.

School of Nursing Assistant Clinical Professor Deana Nunes, MSN, RN, CWCN, says that Madison’s work with SLS embodies what it means to be a great nurse. “She is a testament to what hard work and passion combined can accomplish,” she said.

Pre-COVID, Madison loved visiting children and their families in person. Since the pandemic, she has had only one, very special  in-person connection: Madison was able to arrange a private skating session for a toddler and her parents at the rink where she works so the little girl could ice skate for the first time before she passed away.

“She’d been in the hospital pretty much the majority of her life, so she’d never seen snow,” Madison said. “By scraping with my skates, I created little snowballs and we made a miniature snowman.”

If they wish, Madison stays connected to families after their child has passed away. She provides emotional support for surviving siblings, sponsors scholarships in the late child’s name, and also gives financial assistance for funeral or end-of-life costs.

Photo of a student in the Center for Student Success; nursing major
Madison Quinn ’23

“Meeting families is something that’s changed me beyond belief. I’m so grateful for all the families and kids that I’ve met along the way.”

Staying positive in the face of tragedy and heartbreak can be challenging, but she wouldn’t change anything. She plans to continue Strong Little Souls after graduation, and even help it grow by possibly partnering with her future healthcare employer.

“I measure my success in the number of families I help, the lives I’m able to change,” she says. As for the future, “I just want to have a greater impact and help families in more ways than I can now.”

This article was previously published in the Spring 2021 issue of Elms Magazine.