Various Shadow Buddy cuddly plush dolls

Shadow Buddies Foundation

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Marty Postlethwait, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Shadow Buddies, was thrilled when she had her first-born son Miles, but she didn’t know her life would become a revolving door between doctor appointments and surgeries to save him from complicated congenital birth defects. Since birth, he has undergone more than 50 major surgeries, and together, they have spent countless nights in the hospital.


Through the ongoing complications and surgeries, Miles had told his mom he wished he had a friend that was just like him.  A friend he could relate to who also had a scar down its chest from open heart surgeries and an ostomy pouch.  Out of the need to help her son, Shadow Buddies was created. The concept was then developed in the form of a cuddly, plush ‘Buddy’ that resembled various conditions and illnesses of medically challenged children. 


Since the inception of the Foundation, the mission has continuously focused on the psychological and emotional well-being of children undergoing medical challenges.  The organization works directly with pediatric hospitals, specialty camps, schools and centers focused on children’s needs. These organizations use the Shadow Buddy dolls to enhance their existing programs or to help them develop new programs.


“We believe that knowledge and understanding can help children and parents overcome the frightening experience of facing the unknown, said Postlethwait. The joy each Shadow Buddy brings to its child recipient is clear, and parents regularly attest to the power of comfort our Buddies provide. Medical professionals, too, are quick to assert that condition-specific Buddies help them teach young people how to care for their new conditions or what to expect from procedures.” 


A significant portion of their efforts are focused on education with their primary teaching tool being the 36 condition-specific Shadow Buddies. The Buddies offer a unique form of play therapy which allows children to process their individual medical or emotional condition.  The Buddy is a friend that stays with the child for a lifetime.


“Our Shadow Buddies offer children companionship and emotional support to children going through a crisis situation,” said Postlethwait. “Our charity programs provide much-needed support through play therapy and education regarding the child’s illness, disability, or medical treatment.”


To date, the Foundation has distributed over 2 million Shadow Buddies worldwide in all 50 states and 19 different countries, and although they reach children across the world, they love their humble beginnings in Olathe, and are now headquartered in Lenexa. This year, they celebrated their 27th Anniversary!


Capitol Federal Foundation® has played a significant role in helping Shadow Buddies since 2014. Initially, CapFed® had funded Pre-Op Buddies for children going through surgery.


“That was a huge hit with the hospitals and pediatric patients that benefitted by receiving a Buddy,” said Postlethwait. “The Pre-Op Buddy comes complete with surgical gown, cap, booties, mask, ID Band and Discharge papers.  The children do play-therapy and when they are discharged so is their Buddy!


During the last seven years, funding has gone to support local EMT’s and the Courageous Crew Program that honors those in communities that devote their lives to helping others, and includes first responders such as Firefighters, Police Officers, Physicians/Nurses and Military/Veterans.  These Buddies are dressed in their respective honorable uniforms, which further embody local front-line heroes. 


“We have supported over 2,500 of our “Courageous Crew” professionals throughout Kansas City, Wichita, Topeka and Emporia,” said Postlethwait. “Our relationship with Capitol Federal has been amazing since 2014. The support we have received has been instrumental in the success of these programs and supporting children and families in need throughout our surrounding communities. We have been honored to have their support and funding for the past nine years.”

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Shadow Buddies Mission statementThe mission of the Shadow Buddies Foundation is to provide emotional support through education regarding illness, disability or medical treatments.  The foundation accomplishes this through unique programs designed to enhance the lives of children and adults.  In pursuit of that mission, the foundation will continually raise funds, develop new programs and build relationships between organizations with complimentary goals.


Quotes from children who have received a Buddy:


“Today we did surgery on Carlos, my Shadow Buddy.  We put a gown on him and put a cast on him too.  We cut some paper to make a skin graft and we stapled it on his leg.  I like him because he’s “just like me” and he stays by my side everyday”.

Nelson, 6 years old


“I like my Shadow Buddy because I play and thank to him all day.  I act like he’s real and we can to sleep together and watch TV.  His name is Jordan”.

Romell, 8 years old


“Shadow Buddies are not about finding a cure …. they are about providing hope to sick children”. 

Marty Postlethwait, Executive Director of the Shadow Buddies Foundation



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Categories: CapFed® News , Community and Events
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