Choose Kindness

Choose Kindness

5 Twin Cities tweens find a way to ‘make a difference’ on summer break.

A look at an unusual gifted-and-talented summer school class offered through West Suburban Summer School. 

By:  Gail Rosenblum / Star Tribune

Five middle school students, all wearing “I choose kindness” T shirts, sit around a table brainstorming how to turn that message into action.

The tweens and teens could be outside on this steamy summer day, riding bikes with friends to a park or cooling down in a community pool. Instead, they’ve signed up for, and committed to, an unusual gifted-and-talented summer school class offered through West Suburban Summer School.

For five days, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Hannah, 13, Annette, 12, Adelaide, 11, Allison, 12, and Ben, 13, designed activities to bring more good energy into the world.

That included a visit to Prism, a social services agency in Golden Valley, where the students worked for five hours, sorting donations, rearranging food on the shelves and doing some cleaning. Yes, they were invited back.

The inaugural class of “Read, Set, Give!” — held at Maple Grove Middle School — was developed by Betsy Fine, a behavior intervention teacher at Weaver Lake STEM school, and Sarah Bailey, a sixth-grade social studies teacher at Brooklyn Middle School, both in the Osseo school district.

“We have all experienced issues we wish to change,” they wrote in the course description. “In addition, we’ve heard the stories of people making a difference. Now, you get the chance to be that person!”

The teachers noted a lack of volunteering opportunities for tweens and teens, a demographic typically eager to give back but too often turned away at social service agencies unless accompanied by an adult.

Fine and Bailey’s solution: Bring speakers into their classroom to inspire the students to develop their own service projects. Karen Skagerberg, co-founder of Maple Grove’s “Beyond the Yellow Ribbon,” told the students about her nonprofit’s mission to provide resources, meals, child care, letters and much more to military members current and past.

The students then made cards for the servicemen and women, and stuffed care packages with Starbursts, nuts, beef jerky, toothbrushes, even air freshener.

They also learned about the nonprofit Spoonful Apparel which donates 50% of profits to fight childhood hunger. (It’s also where they got their kindess T-shirts.)

The best part, though, was choosing their own service projects. Adelaide, who loves to bake, is planning to hold a lemonade stand this summer, with proceeds benefiting a homeless shelter.

Annette’s passion is protecting animals in their natural habitat. She planned to create posters and pamphlets to help people understand the dangers of ocean litter, pesticides, fertilizers and noise and light pollution. Hannah and Allison focused on protecting the rights and health of LGBTQ youth. Ben focused on helping people do a better job of recycling plastic.

“I personally like helping out,” said Allison, who earlier traveled to Rockford, Ill., with her church to stock food at a food shelf and sort clothes at a donation center.

Hannah agreed. “It’s really cool to be able to do our own service project.”

Fine even sneaked in a bit of science — brain science, that is — emphasizing that volunteering for community service can help combat the effects of stress, anxiety and anger.

“What’s that called?” she asked her charges.

“Neuroplasticity!” said Hannah, a student at Wayzata East Middle School.

“Yes!” Fine said. “It’s important to focus on the positive,” she continued. “There’s a natural tendency to focus on the negative, because we once had to pay attention to the approaching mountain lion for our survival. But, today, we need to rewire our brains to pay attention to the positive.”

Bailey added that the teachers were grateful to District 287 administrators for being “very embracing of this concept. We didn’t get huge enrollment, but these beautiful few people signed up to spend their week with us. Administrators were so excited about the project that they let us run it with just these kids, and we hope to grow it next year.”

Leslie Hanson, the district’s gifted and talented program coordinator, said her support for “Ready, Set, Give” was largely due to the teachers’ “infectious enthusiasm.”

She also has a personal interest in volunteering, she said. “I want the young people to adopt that interest as a life skill.”

Bailey is confident that, in just five days, those seeds were richly planted.

“These guys are ready to take action,” Bailey said. “It’s more than I hoped for.”



An 11-year-old started the ‘El Paso Challenge’ to help his community heal

August 6, 2019
By Christina Maxouris & Amanda Jackson, CNN

Sixth-grader Ruben Martinez wants to hold up posters, pass out flyers and promote a challenge on Facebook he thinks will help his Texas community begin to heal from a devastating shooting that claimed the lives of 22 people and injured 24 others.

He calls it the #ElPasoChallenge.

Here’s how it works: The 11-year-old is challenging each person in El Paso to do 22 good deeds for others — one for each of the victims shot and killed when a white supremacist began firing Saturday inside a Walmart.


You can mow someone’s lawn, visit a nursing home, pay for someone’s lunch or dinner, donate to families in need, write someone a letter and tell them how great they are, hold the door for everyone, take flowers to someone in the hospital or leave a dollar on the vending machine for the next person, the young boy suggests, among other ideas in a list of “kind acts” examples.

The point is for people to “be kind to each other all day, every day,” his mom, Rose Gandarilla, said. Her son’s idea, she said, came after Ruben told his mom he didn’t want to go shopping at stores anymore, asking if they could find a delivery service instead.

“He was having some trouble dealing with what happened,” Gandarilla told CNN. “I explained to him that we could not live in fear and that people in our community are caring and loving. I told him to try and think of something he could do to make El Paso a little better.”

So, Ruben went to his room on Sunday, brainstormed and came up with the challenge — and he’s already leading the way.

“Last night, he agree(d) to go out to do his first act of kindness,” Gandarilla said Monday. “He chose to go deliver dinner to our first responders.”

The young boy and his mom have been to multiple places — Walgreens, Barnes & Noble and Sprouts — to spread the message.

“He seems to be doing better and says that hopefully, the world will be a better place with all these random acts of kindness.”

Bravery Knows NO Age

Bravery Knows NO Age

Four high school football players from Sapulpa, Oklahomo, executed a real Hail Mary play last month, when they ran into a burning home and rescued a 90-year-0ld woman.  The boys were passing by the home when they spotted the fire and rushed in through a back door.  Nick Byrd, 14, found Catherine Ritchie in a smoke-filled hallway, picked her up, and carried her outside.  In a heartfelt blog post, Richie’s daughter Missy Ritchie Nicholas thanked the teens “for being the kind of young men who thought about another person above themselves”.

Giving Back, One Basketball Court at a time

Giving Back, One Basketball Court at a time

When basketball courts end up with cracks, dips and divots, Dan Peterson and company step in. With the help of artists and community volunteers, Project Backboard resurfaces public courts and turns them into fly, large-scale pieces of art. The organization has brought new life and sleek aesthetics to over two dozen basketball courts around the world—including in Dan’s hometown of New Rochelle, New York, where he teamed up with local volunteers and artist Scott Albrecht in Lincoln Park. 

BIG Friendship

BIG Friendship

Girls Shave Their Heads to Support 7-Year-Old Friend Battling Cancer

Seven-year-old Leighton Accardo has the support of her pals as she battles cancer and undergoes chemotherapy. 

Leighton’s two friends Emily and Katie decided to shave their heads with her so she wouldn’t feel so alone. 

“I wanted to be supportive of Leighton, and we’re really good friends, and I just wanted to help her” . 

The three girls, who are all members of the local softball and hockey teams in Chandler, held hands as their heads were shorn. 

“Thank you, guys,” Leighton said.

A Heart of Gold

A Heart of Gold

Kenyan runner gives up win to help collapsed competitor cross finish line, awarded $15,000

This runner gave up on a gold medal, but proved he has a heart of gold.

Simon Cheprot was about to cross the finish line in the Okpekpe Internation 10-kilometer Road Race in Nigeria when he noticed a fellow Kenyan runner, Kenneth Kipkemoi, collapse.

He stopped, lifted Kipkemoi up and carried him across the finish line.

Cheprot won the 2016 Okpekpe Race and finished second last year. He was a strong contender to be the first person to win twice in the seven years the annual race began.

“My dad told me one day, ‘When you’re walking and you meet a sick person on the road, help him. Do not leave him’, so that was the first thing that came to my mind when I saw my friend on the ground,” Cheprot reportedly said after the race.

And the selfless act didn’t go unnoticed. Several local politicians awarded Cheprot a total of $15,000, according to local reports.

“This is what is called sportsmanship,” race promoter Mike Itemuagbor said. “Simon gave proper consideration for fairness, ethics, respect and a sense of fellowship with his competitors. He is our hero, he is the hero of the seventh edition of the race.”

One Woman’s Crusade to Put Photos to Fallen Vietnam Veterans

One Woman’s Crusade to Put Photos to Fallen Vietnam Veterans

 Janna Hoehn saw it for the first time in 2011, while on vacation in the nation’s capital.

“When we decided to go to Washington, D.C., the first thing on my list to see was the Vietnam Wall,” she said.

The Maui woman was incredibly moved by the wall that bears the names of U.S. military killed in the Vietnam War.

“They’re not just a name on the wall, they are someone’s loved one,” she said.

Hoehn took down one name and searched for a photograph of Air Force Maj. Gregory John Crossman. She found a yearbook picture and sent it to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund for its Wall of Faces website.

“It’s basically how I got started with this project,” she said.

The fund wants to have a photo of every service member killed in Vietnam.

Hoehn began by locating photos of all 42 Vietnam casualties from Maui. She has since found photographs of more than 7,000 troops.

“I have worked on 32 of the states. I have completed 25 of them,” she said.

She’s close to finishing work on service members from Alabama, Illinois and Michigan.

Others are doing what Hoehn does, but she now has a team of volunteers that help her comb the country for photographs.

“We do use a lot of yearbook photos. We use obituary photos, if needed. But we try to get hold of the families first,” she said.

Hoehn is currently trying to find relatives of Francisco Dacanay. She believes the soldier has family on Oahu.

There are more than 58,000 names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Hoehn’s efforts have gotten the Memorial Fund closer to finding a photograph for every one of them.

“Today’s number it was 1,060 photos nationwide we still need to find. We’re really getting close to being done,” she said.

By Jim Mendoza / Hawaii News Now;  Edited by Davis Pitner
A Maui Woman’s Crusade:  put faces to all the names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

If you can help in the search email Janna Hoehn at [email protected] 

One last thing to leave you on this Memorial Day.  The beautiful voice of a Navajo Code Talker and Proud US Marine, Thomas H. Begay.  Thank you for your service.

Oh my gosh! Peace Wallpaper!

Oh my gosh! Peace Wallpaper!

I am SO excited to finally start profiling some of the fun ‘Three Lines and a Circle’ things I’ve been working on these past 6 months celebrating expressions of PEACE.  (BTW – If you aren’t a subscriber yet don’t wait to sign up and start receiving weekly Peace Posts to give you encouragement and inspiration.)

I’ve been super busy at work developing new lines of PEACE inspired products –  One of which is this new line of Print On Demand Wallpaper!  I absolutely LOVE this stuff!  Who doesn’t want to paper their walls in PEACE?!

This wallpaper comes in 2′ wide rolls in smooth and woven finish.  Click below to learn more!

“Have a Blessed Day” Never meant more

“Have a Blessed Day” Never meant more

Darin Barton was at his usual spot near a freeway exit in Lakewood, Colorado when a semi-truck suddenly barreled over and smashed into rush hour traffic in a burst of flames.  The homeless man asked a nearby friend to call 911 and then took off running toward the blazing multicar pileup.  Barton, 45, said he was able to pull three or four people from their vehicles, joining several other good Samaritans who helped with the rescue effort. 

“I just did what I hoped anybody would’ve done if [(they were)] sitting down there,”  Barton said.

Fighting Illiteracy – A Voice 4 the Unheard.

Fighting Illiteracy – A Voice 4 the Unheard.

Fourteen-years old and illiterate, John Bunn was sent to prison for a crime he did not commit. By the time he was 17, John had completed his GED and was reading anything he could get his hands on. Now 41, he is finally free—after nearly two decades in prison and ten years on parole – he is committed to sharing the power of literacy with those who need it most.

Through his organization, A Voice 4 the Unheard, John has collected over 80,000 books to build out libraries at Rikers Island, youth detention centers and beyond.

Source:  Great Big Story