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Who We Are

Who We Are

Our committed team puts forth daily efforts to proactively prevent child abuse, abandonment, and neglect. We concentrate on crafting and disseminating resources that encompass both novel and established solutions for child abuse prevention. Furthermore, we develop a comprehensive set of tools tailored for parents, caregivers, teachers, and organizations. Our ongoing mission includes raising awareness about the ramifications of abuse, abandonment, and neglect, as well as promoting the supportive programs that aid children and their families in communities nationwide.

Our Mission

Big Hugs for Little Hearts is a registered 501(c)(3) charitable organization with a steadfast commitment to promoting empowerment and nurturing the well-being of children affected by trauma, both through preventative measures and recovery support. We extend our services to all children in the United States, from birth to eighteen years of age, who have experienced the hardships of abuse, abandonment, or neglect. Our comprehensive resources include, but are not limited to, access to legal support and representation, financial assistance for medical visits, access to educational materials, and essential provisions that allow children to focus on healing and recovery.

Our organization operates at a grassroots level, relying heavily on the dedicated efforts of volunteers and the invaluable backing of our sponsors and foundations. With your support, we aspire to alleviate the challenges faced by young survivors of trauma and demonstrate to each child that their inherent abilities can propel them far beyond their present circumstances, potentially changing the world.

Our Vision

At Big Hugs for Little Hearts, our vision is to ensure that every child has access to their essential life necessities, irrespective of their life circumstances.

Our Team

Learn more about our talented and dedicated team below. 

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child art
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Founder/Chief Executive Officer

Kristin Leest serves as the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Big Hugs for Little Hearts, a non-profit organization based in Charleston, South Carolina. She established this 501(c)(3) organization in 2019 and has held the roles of President and CEO since its inception. Currently, she also acts as the community liaison, actively expanding and recruiting volunteers and new board members for Big Hugs for Little Hearts.

Throughout her career in Finance, Kristin Leest has occupied various leadership positions. Her journey into the non-profit sector officially commenced in 2007 when she began her Master's degree in Organizational Leadership and non-profit management at Quinnipiac University in Cheshire, Connecticut. This transition marked a shift from her ten-year career in finance to embrace community service work, with a focus on children and animals.

Leest's personal experience as a survivor of childhood trauma motivated her to create and establish her own non-profit organization, a project she had been working on for many years before the establishment of Big Hugs for Little Hearts. In 2019, she seized the opportunity to fully dedicate her time to the non-profit she had been developing over the past decade.

Leest is a dedicated advocate for health and wellness, believing in the importance of healthy eating, regular exercise, and vitamin and supplement usage for maintaining a long and healthy life. Her commitment to staying healthy is rooted in the tragic early passing of her father due to cancer.

She holds a Bachelor's degree in Financial Management from Western Connecticut State University. Presently, Kristin Leest resides in Charleston, South Carolina, with her husband, a recently retired twenty-one-year naval officer, as well as her son Ryan and three stepchildren, Maggie, Walter, and Patrick. She also wears the hats of a writer, dog trainer, and entrepreneur.

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Man with Blue Sweater


Vice President

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Chief Financial Officer

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