April 16, 2020

Danialle Karmanos and The Cuddlers Provide Warmth During COVID Isolation

What if I ask how can I help? That’s the question that Danialle Karmanos asked herself a few weeks ago when the COVID-19 pandemic began to sweep through southeast Michigan.

Danialle Karmanos with Dr. Feldman
Dr. Feldman visits with Danialle Karmanos for the Karma Has Spoken podcast

When Alfred Taubman introduced Danialle Karmanos to Eva Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., he was confident they would become fast friends, and he was right. You can instantly sense their chemistry while listening to Danialle’s recent “Karma Has Spoken” podcast that featured Dr. Feldman. Danialle likes to call her friend a “superhero” who is “using her own brilliant brain to save each of ours.” Dr. Feldman is quick to complement Danialle’s limitless compassion for the Metro Detroit community.

“Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Danialle believes that helping and uplifting others who are hurting is needed more than ever,” said Feldman. “The Cuddlers is a wonderful program, for young and old.”


Rewind to October 2017 when Danialle was inspired to start The Cuddlers, which is a program that quite literally cuddles lonesome children at DMC Children’s Hospital. While accompanying her young son, Leo, overnight at the hospital, she became concerned that there were many babies in the nursery who were left alone for long periods of time. After receiving hospital permission, she and a group of volunteers began regular visits to cuddle the infants. The nurses and parents have expressed sincere gratitude to have extra hands solely focused on comforting the precious patients. Currently, the social distancing parameters made necessary due to COVID-19 have forced the suspension of visits since early March. Longing for a way to connect with the kids and support them, a new idea came to light.

Cuddlers in Action-Karmanos
A Cuddlers volunteers in action.

“Right now we can’t physically cuddle the children or comfort them, but we can reach them through the power of books,” said Danialle. “We all know that kids love being read to. We can’t take them out of their hospital bed or room, but we can take them on an adventure. I had a Cuddlers’ video call last week and everyone was excited to do it. We’ve started reading and posting stories for all the kids.”

More than 20 videos of Cuddlers reading children’s books are available at thecudlers.org/reading-time, as well as on Facebook and Instagram. Michigan Medicine’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital has been using the videos, in addition to DMC Children’s Hospital and Beaumont Children’s Hospital.



Karmanos reading, The Cuddlers
Danialle reading Pig the Fibber, which is posted on thecuddlers.org

Danialle and her crew are currently developing a way to help an entirely different generation of Metro Detroiters through a burgeoning relationship with Meals on Wheels. During last week’s Cuddlers call, a volunteer expressed her concern for adults and seniors who are isolated, depressed or lonely, especially during the Passover and Easter holidays. The next day a new plan was taking shape.

“We connected with Meals on Wheels and they are eager to collaborate with us,” said Danialle. “We’ve been calling it a ‘box of cuddles.’ In addition to essential food items, each box will include puzzles, a flower planting kit, crossword puzzle book, chocolates, adult coloring books, and other art supplies. We want people to know they have not been forgotten.”

By April 20, The Cuddlers will have 100 boxes ready to be distributed to local seniors who are alone and in need of cheering up.

Grow Where You’re Planted

Coronavirus or not, Danialle feels an inherent drive to help people who are hurting or who are in need of a solution to a problem. She describes her outlook as being available, fearless and willing. For example, she never intended to start Kids Work It Out, but her desire to help a few kids 15 years ago has grown into a partnership with Wayne State University. The nutrition and yoga program is offered at no cost to children all across Detroit and has helped over 20,000 kids since its inception. During the pandemic, KWIO launched #HealthyKidsQuarantined to support families.

“I have an insatiable desire to help those who are hurting,” said Danialle. “There’s something in me that wants to fix it. Years ago, I was a video producer and I had a great boss who told me his two favorite words were ‘what if.’ I think that’s burned in my head. When a need crosses my path, I try to lean in and ask what if? What if I get involved? That’s what I’ve done and that’s what we’ve done with The Cuddlers.”

If you would like to volunteer with The Cuddlers, visit www.thecuddlers.org. To volunteer at Mott Children’s Hospital, visit http://www.med.umich.edu/volunteer/