Inspired by a single act of kindness, Random Acts of Kindness Day, celebrated its third anniversary in 2010 with the participation of more than 150,000 people in 10 communities. Now, the annual day presented by the Kitchener and Waterloo Community Foundation (KWCF) hopes to expand to more than 25 communities across the country with the help of the Pepsi Refresh Grant.
With an application for $25,000, the idea is currently sitting at the 29th spot in its category. It needs to finish as one of the top two ideas, as voted on by the public, in order to receive the funding. Votes for this cycle of the grant can be cast online by anyone at a rate of one vote per day from now until Feb. 28.
Tracy Van Kalsbeek, coordinator of the Random Acts of Kindness program, said the day, held annually in November, is about the celebration of kindness in the community. Small cards, carrying a ‘pay it forward’ type message are distributed to schools, businesses, community groups and individuals before the event and then passed out as random acts of kindness happen. In addition, in 2010, 75 volunteers were sent into participating communities to distribute free newspapers to spread the kind word.
Van Kalsbeek has been astounded by how quickly the event has caught on.
“I think it resonates with people. It’s so easy to understand. People get kindness, they know what it is. And I think just the simplicity of it is what’s so appealing to people,” she said.
The grant money will be used to help with printing costs and promotional materials, as well as to hire a part-time staff member to promote the day across Canada.
Rosemary Smith, KWCF’s chief executive officer, thinks the nation-wide spread of the idea will show Waterloo
Region’s leadership in social ideas. It does a lot for us “when ideas that are creative and innovative in the social services sector are launched from this community and then spread out,” she said. “It creates a reputation for this community about caring for all citizens and I think that’s a great way to be known across the country.”
The idea for Random Acts of Kindness day was presented to the organization after one of its members was inspired by an act of kindness she experienced. Deb Ritchie was attending a meeting in downtown Kitchener when she was approached by a gentleman in a parking lot. Having a day-long parking pass he wasn’t going to use, the gentleman gave it to Ritchie, who in turn passed it another stranger when she was done using it. The acts of kindness lifted her spirits and helped to inspire the event.
“She got to thinking there must be a way that we could encourage kindness in our community so that people feel that they belong and they matter and that their neighbours and their colleagues care about them,” Smith said.
Although Smith acknowledges every day should be about kindness, she believes the annual event serves as a good reminder.
“The only way you start is by encouraging people and I truly hope that people who participate in Random Acts of Kindness day and find out how good it feels to give to others will make a commitment to give every day of the year,” she said.
Smith hopes the community will support the expansion endeavor by voting everyday for the idea, which is the only one from this area available for the grant this cycle.
“It’s a program that I think supports everyone in this region and we hope well beyond and we sure would love readers to secure this grant by voting and voting often.”