By RACHEL HENRY
The Kindness Krew is coming for you.
On Nov. 4 Random Act of Kindness Day swept Waterloo Region, bringing with it simple and fun ways to “pay it forward.”
Random Act of Kindness Day (RAK Day) was started by The Kitchener and Waterloo Community Foundation (KWCF) in 2008, in an effort to reinforce KWCF’s goals of building a better community. The initiative welcomed individuals, businesses, clubs, schools and churches to get involved and celebrate with the help of Kaptain Kindness and the Kindness Krews, organized groups that encourage thoughtful acts throughout the community.
Four years ago Conestoga Student Life programmer and Respect Committee leader Ryan Connell jumped on board the committee, making Conestoga the first post-secondary institution to become involved in Random Act of Kindness Day. Connell said although the first year was low-key, the response was huge.
“I think the best part is it’s such a surprise,” Connell said. “Everyone’s so busy and stressed right now, but they’re greeted with free popcorn and cotton candy.”
The RAK Day kickoff was held in the morning at Conestoga Mall, with guest speakers Quarry Integrated Communications CEO Alan Quarry, MP Peter Braid, Kitchener Mayor Carl Zehr and Waterloo Mayor Brenda Halloran, to name a few. A flash mob was the grand finale to the kickoff, but was the perfect way to start the day.
Festivities were in full swing at Waterloo and Cambridge campuses, and Student Life also partnered with the Guelph Community Foundation to bring the fun to Guelph campus students.
At the Doon campus over 50 Respect reps ran booths handing out popcorn, hot chocolate, cotton candy and stations with colouring pages, origami and thank you cards, all for free. There were also surprise deals at the cafeteria, library and bookstore.
“Colouring was one of those things that I didn’t think would go over very well,” Connell said. “But people got really excited over it. Even mature students got involved. I remember seeing a 40-year-old man just colouring away.”
Individuals could pick up cards from the KWCF or Respect reps, then when they performed a random act of kindness they gave the card to the recipient and told them to pay it forward. The cards travelled from person to person, with cards in the past getting as far as B.C. and Florida.
“People may think this is a little fluffy but initiatives like this build communities,” Connell said. “There’s incredible purpose, and it helps make people feel like they belong.”
There’s no doubt that RAK Day is bringing the warm fuzzies, but not in a bad way.
“A lot of people are eager to get involved,” Student Life representative Caitlin Chapman said. “And it’s nice to see so many smiling faces.”
Among those beaming were young children, who were also enthusiastic to perform good deeds. Marilena Benak, mentorship program co-ordinator at YMCA of Kitchener-Waterloo, said she joined Random Act of Kindness Day in 2009 and her most valuable experience was with her daughter, who was five at the time.
“Without having a full understanding of this amazing initiative she collected all the lollipops from the sweets drawer and shared them with her friends at the dancing club,” Benak said.
“It was just heart-warming when I asked her the reason why she did this. She said, ‘Mommy, I just learn from you how to be kind.’”