kindness activist

kindness activist

Saturday, July 9, 2016

All Around Kindness

Every once in a while I hear about somebody that really piques my interest.  Someone that makes me wish I could meet them in person.  And recently, thanks to Kindness Activist Amanda Nicastro, I heard about somebody that made me think, “Man, I really want HER to be MY FRIEND!!”.

Amanda is amazingly kind.  I mean, she DONATED A KIDNEY for goodness sakes (story about that super duper Kindness Activist act is here:  Donating Kindness).  So when Amanda emailed me and said she would like to nominate her friend DANA KRASHIN to be a Kindness Activist, well I sorta knew Dana would be deserving.  But I didn’t know how much of a flood of kindness would be reported to me by so many of Dana’s friends!!

Amanda and Amelia Bienstock (another friend) each secretly posted on Facebook (hiding Dana!), asking friends to reply with stories of kindness they had been lucky enough to experience because of Dana.  Well, it didn’t take long at all for the posts to start rolllllling in.  Guys, DANA ROCKS in the kindness department!!!

First off, Dana is a runner.  Like, a super fit marathon type runner.  But it isn’t enough for her just to RUN, oh no, she takes it to a WHOLE.  NEW.  LEVEL. 

Dana with a complete stranger at the Philly Marathon.  
Dana does volunteer work for Team Hoyt (and has raised A LOT of money for them).  I am not a runner by any stretch of the imagination.  I mean, I might run if chased by a snake, but that would probably be the only reason. So when people mentioned Dana volunteering for “Team Hoyt” I figured it was some “runner thing” that I wouldn’t really understand.  Oh, but if you watch this video, you WILL understand… 

The website to learn more about Team Hoyt and how YOU can help them, visit here:  Team Hoyt

OK, so Dana runs.  And volunteers a lot for Team Hoyt.  But guess what else she does while running?  (Note:  this is the part that hooked me on the idea of Dana, this is right up my alley!)  SHE MAKES HOMEMADE MEDALS, CARRIES THEM IN HER FANNY PACK WHILE RUNNING, AND HANDS THEM OUT MID-RACE AND AFTER THE RACE TO FRIENDS AND STRANGERS!  Medals!!!!!  Is that not the most kind, fun thing you can imagine at a marathon???  I would love to be running (ok, I would hate to be running, but IF I was running, I would love this part…) and have Dana come up beside me and say, “Susan, you look like you are having a bit of a hard time.  But it’s ok!  You can DO IT, girlfriend!!  Here is a “I Got My Butt Off The Couch” medal that I made!  Keep running!!!!!”.  Sometimes she goes to events she isn’t running in just to cheer and hand out medals.  I totally know that her medals (and smiles and cheers) have inspired people and will continue to do so. Make sure you check out #FollowThatFannyPack to see stuff about Dana bringing joy and encouragement to loads of runners.


Look - a homemade DANA MEDAL!!!  Lucky recipient!!!
Dana also INSPIRES people to run.  Her friend Amelia told me this: “I 100% could not have run a marathon ever without her. One day we agreed to go on a run. I told her that I was out of shape and definitely couldn't run more than 2 miles, but somehow she convinced me to run 6!  That was twice as many miles than I had ever run before. A few weeks later, she was like, "Hey, let’s go around the park another time," and that was my first 12 mile run. I was hallucinating after but sure enough, I did it, and absolutely would not have been able to push myself to do that without her. She was there for my first half marathon (and my 15th!) and my first marathon. She's the reason I run. She's also so fun to run with, friendly, encouraging, has great outfits. We even started a show together that is currently called "The Runway" where we interview runners about what they are wearing.”  And her friend Danny told me about a particularly hard race where her mental image of knowing Dana would be at the finish line to cheer for her is what kept her going.

Team Hoyt crossing the finish line at the Boston Marathon!!
Dana not only runs, she is also a performer – she is part of the People’s Improv Theater (PIT), where she is an improviser and the “Random Acts of Kindness Queen”.  She does a TON of cool (and kind!) stuff for fellow performers!!  Kathleen O’Mara told me, “When I got on the PIT house teams, the first night of shows someone introduced her to me and she confidently said, “Oh, I know Kathleen.  She’s funny!”.  I am not sure we had ever met and if we had it was in passing at best, but it made me feel really good and confident on a day I was really nervous and insecure.  She’s a bright ray of sunshine.” 

Dana at the mic
Performing, especially IMPROV, really requires teamwork and the support of everyone on stage.  From the sound of it, her PIT teammates would love to be on stage with Dana any day of the week.  “She takes the mistakes of her teammates; the awkward moves, accents, gestures and she gleefully spins them into comedy gold.  You can do the worst set of your life on a stage with Dana and walk off looking like a genius because she cares enough to make the people around her look good through supporting their comedic offers, making blunders look intentional and just diving in to save a teammate who is floundering on stage- never worrying about looking foolish or bombing, just wanting to support, never wanting to leave you out there alone,” said Jessica Clark.

And how about THIS???  Dana joins the lottery every single day to try and get tickets for the Broadway show “Hamilton”.  Only, she isn’t trying to score them for herself – she is trying to win them FOR FRIENDS AND FAMILY so that they can go see the always sold-out show!!!!!!  As someone who really wants to see “Hamilton”, I can so support this kindness on her part!!  She used to have to physically go to the theatre to enter the lottery, but now it is all online.  But still – I mean – who does that???  Who scores the hottest tickets in town and then LETS SOMEONE ELSE HAVE THEMDana, that’s who!!!  And friends Amelia Bienstock and Giancarlo Osaben appreciate her kindness in this department (as will another person who doesn't even KNOW yet that Dana scored them Hamilton tickets!!).    

Dana just GETS kindness – she exudes it!  And in today’s world more than ever, we NEED people like her!  Check out what she did for her friend Christine Prynn: “I had a travel companion for my tours and cross country trips – a stuff animal of young Simba from The Lion King.  I posed Simba in different places to post pictures on Instagram.  On a trip back from Colorado last February, I lost Simba in the Denver Airport and was pretty bummed about it.

Oh no - Simba has gone missing...
Dana contacted the airport every day for two weeks to try and find him, but he never turned up.  Instead, she secretly bought a new stuffed Simba and opened a new Instagram account for that toy, posing it all over New York in a search for ME.  She and several people from Unauthorized were mum about the whole thing until a few weeks ago when she confessed.  The new Simba has passed hands and is continuing his travels for the time being.

It’s one of the loveliest gestures anyone that wasn’t my mother has done for me.  I’m impressed and flattered that Dana went to such lengths to find a replacement toy and entertain me.  This is one of the countless examples of what a loving, generous friend she is.”

As someone who travels with a mermaid tail and photographs herself in it all around the world, I can so relate to this story and how sad I would be if I left it in an airport.  But in the Simba emergency, Dana jumped in (as usual!) and saved her friend Christine’s day!

And it is not always “little” things like medals and stuffed animals that Dana does.  She also organizes big surprise SHOWS!!  She did one for Kindness Activist Amanda after she donated her kidney: “After I donated a kidney Dana contacted my all lady improv team and organized a whole surprise show in my honor. It really meant a lot to me. I was still processing this huge thing that had happened to me and not quite sure yet of how to talk out it with everyone.  Dana swooped in and made me feel loved and at ease to be enthusiastic & take pride in what I had done. And when our friends Abbie and Sean got married she organized a surprise secret show for them as well. They had gotten engaged at the theater and I know the show meant a lot to them.”

The big Kidney Show that Dana organized
Dana also picks out the perfect gifts for her friends, ones that when they use them make them think of her and smile.  Tamsi told me, “I am wearing a pair of socks right now that says “Let’s Taco About Love” and I own them because Dana saw them and thought about me and got them for me.  So I guess you could say, “When you ‘Taco About Kindness’, you TACO ABOUT DANA KRASHIN!”.  Another great gift she gave was to Amelia: “A few years ago at the annual PIT Holiday party, house team members got these really cool hoodies and interns (me…) got hats. I was bummed because the hoodies were awesome and I really wanted one.  Well, Dana secretly told everyone in the office that if they go on sale NOT to let me know or buy one, and then she went and bought one for me and gave it to me for my birthday. It was really sweet.”  And she found the perfect bracelets for her friends, too!   She got them bracelets that say, “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon” after they completed their 1st marathons.  And hey, Rachel Schwartz got pumpkin muffins hung on her door when Dana went home from Pancakeland, just cuz Dana knew she liked ‘em!  Damn, she is a great gift giver!!

Medals AND bracelets???  What a friend!!!
Dana organizes Biggest Loser contests with her friends and family.  Everyone who joins pitches in $100.  The winner gets half the pot, and the rest of the money goes to Team Hoyt.  Well, it is Dana’s contest, so she writes the rules, and wouldn’t you know one of the rules is:  IF DANA WINS, ALL THE MONEY GOES TO TEAM HOYT.  Bingo – first year of the contest, Dana wins (as does Team Hoyt!!).

I kept the whole “Kindness Activist” thing hidden from Dana for a while so her friends could write and share photos secretly.  But then I contacted her to get HER SIDE of the story.  I wanted to know what her friends had been saying about her and see what she had to say about her kindness. 

Wouldn’t you know it, she bawled. She hid in a public bathroom reading Facebook messages her friends had secretly written about her and CRIED.  And she totally thought she was UNDESERVING to be a Kindness Activist!  Can you believe it??  She is this super amazing person, and she said something like, “I am a fraud!  I am not kind!  Now Amanda, SHE is kind, she DONATED HER KIDNEY!”.  So I politely asked her to please take a breath, wipe her tears, blow her nose, and accept that she is, indeed a KINDNESS ACTIVIST.  J 

And then I asked her some questions.  Here’s what she told me:

Me:  Do you deliberately set out to be as kind as you are?  Do you have to "work" at it, or is it just a natural flowy kindness-y thing with you?  

Dana: “I don't really think there's any other option.  Also, I don't think the seemingly kind things I do are for the other's really just plain selfish.  Doing fun things for other people makes me feel great and like I have a purpose.  It's so, so, so selfish.  It's totally selfish.  I love doing this stuff.  I love spectating.  It's my own favorite thing to do and it makes me so happy and energized and excited.  It makes me feel like I have a purpose.  So I guess it falls on the flowy side cause I'm pretty sure I couldn't live with myself if I didn't do simple easy things that made people smile.  It seems like the only choice.” 

Dana is an amazing person.  
Me:  What are some of your favorite examples of kindnesses that you have bestowed on others?

Dana: “I love surprises.  They stress me out like crazy, but I love them.  I love throwing surprise improv shows for people.  Oh man - that's the best.  

I love marathon spectating.  My family has only one tradition.  We didn't really do regular holidays but we ALWAYS went to mile 8.4 of the Boston marathon route to cheer for Team Hoyt.  For over 3 decades my family gone to this event as marathon spectators and it is in my blood.  So I loooooove spectating races for other people.  I love making medals.  I make them for my friends and for strangers.  Ugh - I love giving out medals.  I love holding signs for people.  Blowing bubbles, writing on the ground with chalk, wearing ridiculous costumes.  So I guess this is nice for someone running a race or for random runners, right?

Dana's family's spectating spot :)
So after spectating for most of my lifetime, I finally started running way late in the game.  Boston 2013 was my first marathon.  I got a charity slot running for Team Hoyt and raised a ton of money for them.  It all goes to organizations that make the lives of disabled young people better.  

Then I got stopped at mile 22 after the bombs went off and wasn't allowed to finish my first marathon. So who knows if I ever would have run another marathon...but being told to stop made me not be able to ever stop.  Now I've run 9, soon to be 10, and that's not enough.  Don't ever tell me I can't do anything.  So it became my mission to get more people running.

I'm not really sure if I had anything to do with this, but in the fall of 2012 when I got invited to be on Team Hoyt, I knew my dad was a marathoner and I had like one friend who was a marathoner.  Now everyone I know runs.  I'm not in any way saying that I made these people run or helped these people run, but I did try to spread the joy of it and it seems to make people happy...wait what were we talking about?!! :)

People who know me know that I will hold them to things they want to do for themselves.  Sometimes I'll call you early in the morning if you need help getting up for a run. I love checking in with people on losing weight, quitting smoking, other stuff like that.  I just think it's nice to feel like you're not alone in these battles.” 

When I asked Dana if she wanted to add anything else about her kindness, she told me this: “I have never been able to figure out what I wanted to "do for a living."  I just wasn't sure I could live with myself if I was doing anything that didn't seem completely for the good of other people or that was fun or happy.  So I've refused to commit.  Probably not the best plan, but here I am, teaching for non-profit after school programs as a teaching artist, coaching a little running, and doing a ton of unpaid improv and performing and marathon training.  I guess what I'm saying is - what I do for a living isn't my waiting tables on the weekend job...I call that rent.  The other stuff is the living.  When I can take a day off from the restaurant to go be ridiculous and watch my friends run a marathon that's 4 loops of a park and I can cheer for them for hours...that's a great day.  That's my living.

Dana is really kind to ANIMALS, too!
Also I think it's really important to note that I'm pretty sure I get a lot of this from my mom.  She's the marathon spectator that showed us the way.  She also always does everything for you.  I know everyone says that about their mom, but mine really does.  I knew if there was something I wanted, really hard to get concert tickets, a Cabbage Patch kid on the day they went on sale and you had to stand in line all night, a Muppets Baby HappyMeal Gonzo that NOBODY had... she would figure it out.  She is amazing like that.  Sometimes I have to say to her, "Hey do you have any idea how I can...(fill in the blank)...but PLEASE only tell me if you know the answer don't go making this into a project.

Dana and her mother - the woman who taught her to be so kind
I guess that's it.  I love the project of making people happy or giving them exactly what they want (if they knew it or not).  That I got from my mom.”

Well, I have to say that I think your friends and the strangers that you inspire are thankful to your mom for passing down that amazing trait to you.

Here are just some of the amazing things people said about Dana:

“Dana is the nicest, most supportive member of any community she is a part of and cares about everyone.  She makes you feel like you are one of the most interesting and important people in the world when you talk to her.”  Kathleen O’Mara

“She is the best person to get salads with and she still talks to me even after she has seen me cry a million times.”  Adrian Sexton

Dana is just pure support and kindness and light.  Dana rocks hard.“ Heather Jewels

“Dana is able to believe in people when they feel unable to believe in themselves. She is consistently looking for ways to bring a large, competitive, sometimes cynical community together. She celebrates others. She empathizes with others. She improves the lives of others.” Tamsi New

“Dana is by far one of the most driven, encouraging, inspiring, and supportive people I know.”  Amelia Bienstock

“Dana is just endlessly, tirelessly, indefatigably supportive.  She’s your biggest fan.  Your one woman cheering section.  She’s the human embodiment of “You can do it!”.  In a comedy world full of cynicism, she is a fount of sincere enthusiasm.” Jason Specland

“Dana always reaches out. I can be a real hermit, and if a week goes by that Dana and I don't talk, she will always text me and check in. She is probably my only friend who does this. I don't know if we're closer than she is with other people, because I suspect there are probably 40 people who have the exact same experience with Dana, but she makes me feel special and loved. Running brought us together, but I feel like wherever life takes me or her, we will always be friends. I count her as one of my closest, most trusted friends, and I feel lucky to have her in my life.”  Emily Johnson

“She gives so much love and support to her friends and to strangers that it balloons around her, connecting people.  Her kindness transcends and creates communities wherever she works or plays.  She’s a total love bug who wells up with emotion over the human condition on a 24/7 basis.”  Jessica Clark

“I remember the lead-up to the 2012 holiday party and the office discussion regarding who would win the PITizen of the Year. I think we spent all of 2 seconds before unanimously agreeing Dana would be the recipient.”  Keith Huang

“Dana does a million things 24/7, yet she always finds time to express her appreciation of others.  Dana’s kind words and thank yous always come from the heart.”  Mamma and Pappa Bienz (these are not her REAL parents, but this is what she calls them and they obviously adore that!)

“There isn't a thing Dana wouldn't do for the people in her life, and she asks for nothing in return. Over the last few years her selfless kindness has inspired everyone around her to do the same. Simply by existing the way that she does, she reminds me to be kinder to people. Everyone in our community of friends and colleagues is kind, supportive, and generous, and I dare you to find a single person who hasn't been inspired to act this way because of what Dana does.”  Danny Weinstein

LOOK – after you have read all of this about Dana, I know you are as inspired as I am.  Please, use that inspiration.  Go out and DO SOMETHING GOOD for the world.  Give a friend some socks!  Hand out a medal to a perfect stranger!  Inspire someone to run!! 

And for gosh sakes, follow Dana  on Instagram @followthatfannypack



  1. What a woman!!!! Spreading joy for a living......exceptional, inspirational, big hug and kisses sent her way!