March 3, 2024

The Kindness Kids Club

Giving kids a chance to give.
By Ross Boissoneau | June 9, 2018

“Be kind to your parents, though they don't deserve it. Remember they’re grown-ups, a difficult stage of life."

When Harold Rome wrote that song in 1954, he probably didn’t have the vagaries of 21st-century life in mind. But as he said later in the song, “Just keep in mind, though it seems odd I know, most parents were children long ago.”

So, thought Courtney Gorman, what better way to engender kindness in kids than to demonstrate it — and if the gesture reminds parents too, all the better. Thus was born the Kindness Kids Club.

“I’ve always been on a search for ways to get them involved” in volunteer and service efforts,” said Gorman of her two youngsters. “Sometimes it’s hard to do with kids.”

When the Traverse City mom moved here from Indianapolis, she found a circle of friends who had similar wishes. “I’d find other parents say ‘I’d love to do that.’” So in January this year Gorman put her thoughts into action, creating a club that meets once a month for an activity involving children working on a volunteer effort of some sort.

“We create an act of kindness, a volunteer activity geared toward kids. Parents are involved, so it’s become family.”

That family includes several other parents and kids, including Betsy Corbett and her daughter, Caroline, as well as Corbett’s siblings and their kids. “It’s so special to have an opportunity to give back with your kids,” Corbett said. “I have a five-year-old, and all my nieces and nephews participate. It’s been really cool and memorable.”

Gorman said the group gets together for what she’s dubbed a monthly “Kindness Drop.” To date the activities have included a Valentine’s visit to Grand Traverse Pavilions, a trip to the Goodwill Inn, and a cooperative effort with Brickways. “We brought flowers and chocolates,” Gorman said of the trip to the Pavilions. “It was beautiful. We got to interact with [the residents].”

For the visit to the Goodwill Inn, an emergency shelter for those facing homelessness, the club made Welcome Home kits. “We gathered supplies and had an assembly line. We made 30 Welcome Home baskets.”

Gorman said the interest has been strong. “We’ve had over 50 people at each event,” she said.

Count Alexandra Billette as another convert to the cause. “We started thinking the club was going to help me teach and build a sense of community for my family. It does, but what we are getting out of it is so much more! We are learning that, yes, it’s fun and kind to drop off Valentines to the residents at the Pavilions, but the number of human connections and moments made that day just felt priceless,” Billette said.

“Having my kids feel so full and mindful of people’s hearts was so beautiful. It’s amazing to see small children having such huge smiles on their faces without gaining a single material thing. The Kindness Club to me is important in our lives because I wasn’t expecting to gain so much out of it for my kids,” she added.

Corbett said the trip to the Pavilions gave her an opportunity to have a conversation with her daughter about growing old. She explained to Caroline that some of the residents there don’t have family nearby that visits them. “That [visit] made their day. Kids are just so loving and non-judgmental,” she said.

Gorman is ambitious. In addition to expanding its online reach through an upcoming website (currently the group is on Facebook and Instagram) she hopes to expand the program’s reach, possibly including trips abroad. In addition, she’s open to the idea of having the club members earn pins, as in scouting; she’s certainly got the experience. “For eight years I led and organized non-religious cultural immersion trips — Cambodia, El Salvador, Morocco, Nigeria. It’s all evolving. I love that it’s taking flight.”

Next up: On June 23, members plan to have lemonade stands along Front Street. The hook? The kids won’t be charging for the goodies. “We’ll have lemonade, cookies, kindness rocks. There’s no agenda. It’s all free,” said Gorman.

Maybe there is hope for people after all. Seems Harold Rome thought so: “So treat them with patience, and kind understanding in spite of the foolish things they do. Some day you might wake up and find you're a parent too.”

Gorman said those who are interested in the club can contact her at (317) 339-2878 or through Facebook or Instagram. And kids of any age are welcome: “Kindness has no age limit.”



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