What started out as a small gathering of women who shared a commitment to learning, creating, helping and supporting others in meaningful ways may very well help the state of Arizona combat bullying in its schools.
The program – The Be Kind People Project.
“We actually got our start in my home,” said Marcia Meyer, founder of The Be Kind People Project™. “Each year, a few of us would gather around the holidays to try our hand at creativity. This eventually evolved into a fabulous event with women age nine to 90 who last November worked together to create 10,000 teacher appreciation gifts in one great evening.”
This annual holiday event, called Holiday Crafts, Cheers & Laughs® and attended by more than 400 women across the country in 2011, was a start, but Meyer wanted to do more.
“We wanted to make an even bigger positive impact on schools and the community — and the only way to do that was by visiting one school, and one wonderful teacher, at a time,” said Meyer.
Therefore, Meyer’s Be Kind People Project found its mission — recognizing teachers and inspiring kindness in students throughout America.
“Our focus is simply to reach teachers across America, starting here in Arizona, with an intentional gesture of appreciation for the great work teachers do,” said Meyer. “We also seek to inspire kindness in grade school students with the BEE Kind Kid Pledge and instructional aids.”
Since November 2011, The Be Kind People Project has had contact with gifts of recognition to teachers over 20,000 times and has initiated over 500,000 students contacts with items to continue the chain of kindness in their schools and communities.
“Back in 1999, a bunch of local Subway franchisees got together to launch Subway Kids & Sports of Arizona, a nonprofit focused on providing sports equipment, uniforms, registration fees and access to major sporting events for kids who might not otherwise be able to participate,” said Mark Roden, a multi-unit Subway franchisee and executive director of Subway Kids & Sports of Arizona.
Subway Restaurants of Arizona supports kids in sports because it believes basic sports skills — teamwork, commitment and accountability — help kids throughout their lives. Subway Kids & Sports of Arizona has reached more than 14,000 Arizona children since its inception in 1999.
Among the organization’s most successful programs since its inception is Cycle for Success, which focuses on increasing children’s self-esteem, encouraging the community to become involved in the lives of at-risk children and promoting kindness in local schools.
For many years, the organization partnered with other nonprofits to provide free bikes, helmets and locks as well as Subway and Shamrock Farms-catered lunches to schools statewide.
“As we moved into 2012, we didn’t have a partner to help us reach out to the schools,” said Roden. “So when we heard about the good works the Be Kind People Project had been doing with teachers and school districts, we were intrigued.”
A natural partnership, the organizations are now committed to spread the word of kindness in the classroom — both for one’s teachers and fellow students — through Cycle for Success and other proactive outreach activities.
“Our May event was something very special,” said Roden. “In honor of the end of the school year, we presented three students bikes and three classes a catered lunch, but we also stepped up along with The Be Kind People Project to provide the entire school a ‘Kindness Rally’ of sorts in the school cafeteria.”
The event featured the BE KIND CREW, a street fusion dance team that travels with The Be Kind People Project to schools across the country.
The BE KIND CREW is comprised of dancers from the Arizona-based EPIK Dance Company, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to uniting and uplifting people by sharing their love of music, movement and the arts. There was recognition of the three Cycle for Success winners and another dozen honorable mentions, a surprise appearance by Arizona Diamondbacks legend Luis Gonzales, and cookies and milk for the entire school — from Subway and Shamrock, of course.
In addition to Cycle for Success, The Be Kind People Project is working to bring its positive message to schools and teachers in Arizona via school assemblies, giveaways and other special events.
Similarly, Subway Kids & Sports is gearing up for its 2012 grant nominations process, which will be announced this summer and will include the opportunity to apply for monetary grants from the organization to support local child-focused sports programs. They will also work with Jared Fogle, Subway’s national spokesperson, and his Jared’s Foundation to sponsor nutritional programs in several Arizona schools.