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The Josh Stevens Foundation

An in-kind donation

In 2009, 12-year-old Josh Stevens was killed in a golf cart accident in Henderson. But from that tragedy, his parents created a powerful gift in his memory — powerful because it’s so simple. Drew and Barbara Stevens created a foundation to promote their son’s shining attribute: kindness. As anti-bullying campaigns become increasingly popular, the Josh Stevens Foundation focuses on the flip side: Promoting kindness instead of preaching against cruelty.

“We’re encouraging you to be kind instead of, ‘Don’t bully, don’t bully, don’t bully,’” says Barbara. “Suddenly everybody goes, ‘Whoa, that’s really simple, that’s really easy to do, that’s really easy to implement.’”

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Through partnerships with local schools and sports teams, the foundation’s lesson of performing sincere, random acts of kindness is spreading rapidly. This 2011-2012 school year, Drew will speak at nearly 100 schools about how acts of kindness can change the world. 

“Josh knew … this gift that you receive in your heart when you are kind to someone else,” says Drew. “We just believe that he was doing it over and over and over again, filling himself up with this incredible, empowering gift inside.”

The program has a number of components. When students are “caught” being kind, they are awarded a Kindness Card. The bright card includes an illustration by Josh, a poem about the importance of kind acts, Josh’s story, a shoelace charm and shoelace, as well as a gift card donated by a sponsor. At Dean Allen Elementary School, the faculty and staff have gone so far as to integrate the program into their very identity.

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“Our whole school has embraced this message, and it has made kids, parents and staff be kinder to everyone. We already expect pristine manners from our children, but this is requiring them to be kind on a whole new level,” says Kristin Barnson, the school counselor at Dean Allen Elementary. Dean Allen has put the foundation’s message into practice in other ways. The proceeds from their recycling program will contribute to the building of a memorial garden for Josh. The school also has an annual Kindness Week, during which students learn the “Be Kind” message and participate in kindness activities.

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The foundation’s message is spreading rapidly. It has awarded 25,000 Kindness Cards and distributed 40,000 “Be Kind” T-shirts. Organizations and companies outside of valley schools are starting to adopt the message, as well. Barnson said that in February Drew will be the keynote speaker at the conference for Nevada school counselors and excitement is already growing among those who will attend.

“It’s crazy, because Josh died in September of 2009 and by December of that same year, the foundation was already in motion, and the rate at which we’ve grown has been astounding and taken us all by surprise. We welcome the growth, but we’re still in awe of it all. It’s all very amazing,” says Barbara.