Random Gifts Bring Wide Smiles

When Brianna Kitka was growing up near Rochester, New York, she and her sister Annyssa were surprised — and delighted — by occasional “just because” moments.

For no reason other than “we’re thinking of you,” their parents gave the girls small gifts or simple cards. But the impact was huge.

Years later — after living in Fairfield for 16 years, then moving to the Bay Area for her husband Tyler’s job — Brianna’s daughter Madison headed back east, to Syracuse University.

Brianna Ricks

Every Monday, Brianna (now Brianna Ricks) put a tiny gift in the mail, just to stay connected. But in January of 2015, soon after Madison returned to school from Christmas break, Brianna looked online for a care package. Everything was either expensive, or junk food.

Her sister — now Annyssa Cantor, who lives in Wyckoff, New Jersey — sympathized. She too has 2 kids in college. (Brianna’s son John-Austin is now at Syracuse too.)

Jokingly, the women talked about starting their own online gift business.

Six months later, MeToYouBox.com was live.

Brianna and Annyssa went to gift shows. They surveyed college students, to see what they wanted. Among the answers: blankets, stainless steel water bottles, tumblers, funky food items and puzzles.

This coming year, Me To You Boxes will include metal straws. “This generation is very environmentally conscious,” Brianna says.

Contents of a recent Me To You Box.

Not every item is a hit. The women thought fragrances and colognes would be perfect. It turns out that most people — students included — want to pick their own.

But every kid — everyone, in fact — loves the element of surprise. “When a package comes out of the blue, just because someone is thinking of you, that’s so cool,” Brianna says.

There are 3 ways parents (and grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, teachers, coaches, friends…) can send a box.

You can sign up for a monthly shipment. You won’t know what’s in it until the beginning of the month; every month there are 4 to 6 different — but cool and fun — items.

You can also go on the website, and pick out a “pre-curated” package.

Or you you can build your own box.

Brianna and Annyssa thought the first option — the monthly one — would be the most popular.

Nope. Building your own box is — by far.

“People love the convenience of not having to shop, package and ship something,” Brianna notes. “But they’re still in control. And they know what their own kids want better than anyone.”

College care packages are Me To You Box’s bread and butter. But the sisters have added boxes for weddings, birthdays, special events — you name it.

Companies buy boxes for their interns too, Brianna says.

From her Westport home, she manages the website, writes the blog and manages social media.

Annyssa Cantor

With help from local students, her sister in New Jersey takes care of filling the boxes, creating personalized note cards for each one, and shipping them all.

“She provides great customer service too, whenever a person has a question or needs help — perhaps a student has an allergy,” Brianna says.

“Giving back” is ingrained in the company’s mission. Every year Brianna and Annyssa donate a portion of their profits to Julia’s Butterfly Foundation, which provides assistance to families of chronically and terminally ill children.

Brianna’s daughter Madison is out of college. She’s 23, in grad school, working in a physician assistant program. But she has not “aged out” of receiving Me To You boxes.

Right before starting final exams, she texted Mom a photo of her disappointed face. She was stressed, she said — and about that Me To You Box…?!

“I sent a box right away,” Brianna laughs. “I realized this care package thing never gets old. And you’re never too old to enjoy receiving one.”

(Click here for the You To Me Box website.)

3 responses to “Random Gifts Bring Wide Smiles

  1. Tom Duquette, SHS '75

    I don’t know; my parents paying for four years of tuition, car insurance and gas while I was in college felt like a pretty good ‘gift’ to me. I certainly wasn’t expecting monthly sundries shipped from home on top of that. Younger generations have a reputation for being needy; case in point the 23 year old grad student daughter who’s still looking for care packages. That being said they seem like nice people who’ve found a niche business- good luck.

  2. Elizabeth Thibault

    We’re never too old or privileged to get little reminder from someone to let us know they’re thinking of us and that we are loved. A note, a call, a text, or a small item with something that we think they would like/appreciate. Go ahead and err on the side of being kind and communicating your feelings. Making it easier to do something special is always welcome.

  3. Bobbi Essagof

    When I was a kid at sleep away camp I was known as “the kid who got all those packages”. My mom was always sending something. A box or an envelope and it never mattered what was inside, just that she was thinking of me.I’m not a little kid anymore but still get surprise packages from my mom (she’s 84) and it still doesn’t matter what is in them!
    Great idea ladies. Kudos for filling another need we didn’t realize was important to our children!