CLEVELAND, Ohio — Perhaps now more than ever, it’s important to be kind and praise goodness in our communities.
A Cleveland-area foundation aims to do just that, and next week, it's hosting a major milestone event.
“Kindness absolutely can change the world,” said Stuart Muszynski.
Stuart Muszynski is the co-founder, president and CEO of the Values-in-Action Foundation.
He says in the last 26 years, the Cleveland-based social emotional leadership organization has taught nearly one million students in schools nationwide about the power of kindness, caring and respect through “Project Love.”
“Research shows that learning increases, graduation increases, feeling fewer feelings of social isolation, less violence, greater feeling of camaraderie where people are pitching in," said Muszynski.
His next goal is to record one million acts of kindness in greater Cleveland by the end of 2021 to transform the city into the kindest community in the country.
In a year with so much turmoil, what if Cleveland could become “Kindland”?
“Now we need the kindness more than ever to turn that tide, to prevent us from being at each other's throats—whether it's politically, whether it's because of economics, whether it's because of racial injustice,” said Muszynski.
The official unveiling of the Kindland initiative is just one new part of the 20th annual Celebration of Goodness.
Muszynski says Kindland is Sam Miller’s vision. He compares the late businessman and philanthropist to Mr. Rogers.
“We have all these acts of kindness that occur every day and that's what Sam Miller saw, years ago, but how we mobilize more acts of kindness off of the acts of kindness that we see is a function of the awareness that we build,” said Muszynski.
The Celebration of Goodness aims to put a spotlight on unsung heroes and helpers. COVID-19 turned the free luncheon virtual.
This year’s honorees include Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman and former Cleveland Mayor Mike White. Plus, the Greater Cleveland Food Bank and the Hebrew Free Loan Association of Northeast Ohio.
At the core of the event is carrying on the legacy of community and "Project Love" leaders Sam Miller and Arnold Pinkney. In fact, the awards are named after them.
For the first time, the “Mikey George Kindland Award” will be introduced, in memory of a 16-year-old Cleveland-area student with Down's Syndrome who passed away last year from leukemia.
“He exuded love and kindness every single day and in the process, he transformed his high school,” said Muszynski.
In addition to logging on for the awards ceremony at noon on Sept. 10, Values-in-Action encourages all of Northeast Ohio to take the online pledge to become a citizen of "Kindland."