In her daughter’s memory, Becky Nichols of Loving Libbie creates comfort food to help sick kids heal
Sometimes the simplest things can launch the most powerful movements.
Take comfort food. We all have beloved dishes we instinctively turn to when we need to give ourselves a little TLC.
But for cancer patients, their favorite comfort food is more than just a nice treat. It can help them get the nutrients they need to manage their symptoms and to heal, even when they don’t feel much like eating.
That’s what Becky Nichols learned when her daughter, Libbie, was undergoing treatment for leukemia. This terrible disease took Libbie in 2004, when she was only 5 years old. But, in her memory, her mom has become a #Firestarter who has helped countless other kids and families.
‘This Is What Faith Is to Me’
Libbie was diagnosed when she was only 6 months old. That meant lots of time in hospitals over the years for her and her family. Sometimes she struggled to eat during treatments. But macaroni and cheese was “something Libbie could always eat because it was soft and very kid-friendly,” Becky says.
Losing her daughter was beyond devastating. But Becky knew that any solace she would find would come from creating something meaningful in Libbie’s memory. So she started the Loving Libbie Memorial Foundation, as well as a restaurant where she prepared comfort food for hospitalized kids and the people caring for them. With a background in catering, this was a natural way for Becky to help children like Libbie and their families.
From there, things took off in ways that feel downright magical. Becky’s movement received wide coverage, including on “NBC Nightly News” and a feature shown on video screens in New York City cabs. One of those cab passengers was a businessman who funded the balance of the foundation’s budget for the year and also offered business guidance.
“This is what faith is to me,” Becky says. “I don’t know why things happen. … You just have to go with it.”
But even more, support would come pouring in. A major grant from a nonprofit organization helped Becky transition from the café to a food truck. With an eye toward placing her products in stores, Becky entered H-E-B’s Quest for Texas Best contest. Working with the grocery chain and Night Hawk Frozen Foods, Becky got Libbie’s Famous Mac & Cheese and Green Chile Mac & Cheese in H-E-B locations across Texas this summer. Proceeds help Becky bring more comfort food to kids in need.
The journey to where Becky and her foundation now feel like a whirlwind. “I just wanted to do something,” Becky says. “I needed something. I didn’t know what it was going to be, and I certainly didn’t know that it would be this big.”
Besides helping others, she is keeping her daughter’s memory alive. “I feel like I’ve created a world that Libbie still lives in,” Becky says.
What’s Ahead for Loving Libbie
And her movement is poised to grow even bigger. Becky’s vision for the future is getting Loving Libbie Mac & Cheese into more grocery stores across the U.S., with those sales enabling the foundation to have a presence in more children’s hospitals. As always, she has faith that she’ll reach this goal.
And Becky might have just gotten another sign about what’s ahead during our phone interview. When we talked, she was in a bookstore in South Texas. And she had to interrupt our conversation suddenly when a book flew off the shelf at her. The topic? How to publish a book of your own. If that isn’t a sign, I don’t know what is. But Becky wasn’t really surprised. When she entered the store, she asked Libbie to show her the book she should get.
“I’ve gotten really good at faith,” she says. “I’ve gotten good at hope. And I’ve gotten really good at knowing that everything’s going to be OK no matter what. Just keep walking through doors that are opening.”
How You Can Help
So are you craving macaroni and cheese now? If you’re in Texas, look for Libbie’s Famous Mac & Cheese and Green Chile Mac & Cheese at your local H-E-B supermarket. All proceeds benefit the Loving Libbie Memorial Foundation’s work. Central Texans can support Becky’s movement, and enjoy some delicious food, by booking Libbie’s Funtime Food Truck for events. The organization also welcomes volunteers and donations. To keep up with the latest on the Loving Libbie Memorial Foundation, follow them on Facebook or Twitter.
Looking to start your own movement? Becky has some inspiration for you. She reminds you that if she can change the world with something as simple as mac and cheese, then you can make a difference in your chosen way, too. “If it’s coming from the right place, then run, don’t walk,” she says.
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