kindness activist

kindness activist

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Safety Kindness

I met this woman named Kari via my sister.  Kari seemed fun on Facebook, and when I got to meet her in “real life” (in Omaha, Nebraska) I confirmed that as fact.  And I can tell you another fact:  Kari is a kind person.  She does lots of things that are just, well, KIND!  The things she posts on Facebook often inspire me (and her other friends I am sure).  She is one of those people where you are happy when you check FB in the morning if you see she posted something, ya know what I mean?  You just want to read it because you know it will be good.

This is the cool image she posted with the story that inspired me to write this piece
So, when she posted THIS the other day, about a kindness not that SHE did but that someone did to HER, I was extra happy!  Check it out:

“I'm minding my own business weed eating my yard.  As I turn around I notice this big dude walking up to me who says, "Excuse me ma'am....  My boss asked me to give you these" (and he motions over to a MUD truck as he hands me a pair of safety goggles)."

Kari continued, "Well, I'm a big ol' sap and this touched my heart, so I take my hands and draw a huge heart on the middle of my chest with my index fingers and mouthed the words THANK YOU. Later he drove by & rolled down his window and smiled, telling me, "We’ve only get one set of eyes- you gotta take care of them".  How sweet is that?    XOXO”

It always delights me when people that I know are KIND themselves get KINDNESS returned to them!!!  So I put on my Private Investigator hat and got to work to find the good Samaritan who was so kind to my friend!!
I do not know if this is the sort of MUD truck that Kari saw,
but it is the only photo I can find of one online :)
First I got a couple more details from Kari – date, time, what did the guy look like, etc.  Then I called MUD (Metropolitan Utilities District in Omaha, Nebraska).  The first woman I talked to maybe thought I was crazy, but was very polite about it and suggested I leave a message on the “safety line” to try and track down the giver of the glasses.  So I left a long (ok, rambling…) message and crossed by fingers for a call back.

My phone rang about an hour later, and after a bit of phone tag, I had my answer! 

I talked to Andy Melville, a manager at the Safety Hotline of MUD.  He was excited that a MUD employee who he identified as GENE was so helpful to a member of the community.  I told Andy that Kari and I wanted to make sure Gene didn’t get in trouble for giving away the safety glasses, and he explained that at MUD they not only want to ensure their employees’ safety, but the public’s safety, too.  And he agreed with me that Gene is a great example of doing just that!  He said it didn’t take his team long to figure out it was GENE doing the good deed, and that he would be sure to tell both Gene and his supervisor how much his actions were appreciated.

SO THANK YOU, GENE.  You picked the right person to be kind to.  Almost 90 people read about your actions and “liked” them on Kari’s Facebook wall, and many more will read about them now!  You took time to help make sure Kari was safe, and your kindness meant a lot.  I don’t want to spoil any surprises, but a Kindness Activist button is on its way to the MUD office, be on the lookout for it at a SAFETY MEETING soon!   Oh, and Gene, I would love to have a photo of you to add to this story!  Please send me one at !  


And hey, for the rest of you reading this, go out and DO A GENE today, would ya?  Be kind to a stranger!  It will make their day!! 

Click here for more info on MUD - MUD

Friday, July 29, 2016

Cartoon Kindness

How many of YOUR kind actions can you say helped saved the lives of 200 strangers??? 

Carolyn Belefski can attest to that!!!  She helped to set up CARTOONISTS DRAW BLOOD, an organization that hosts blood drives that feature CARTOON ARTISTS!!  Participants give blood and get a drawing!  You read that right, instead of just getting a cup of juice and a cookie, donors go home with an original piece of artwork!  Perfect, no? 

One happy donor!  Photo by Joe Carabeo, Astray Productions
When Carolyn first had this brilliant idea, she called the Red Cross but was confronted with a lot of “red tape”.  In fact, she told me that getting this event organized was “harder than finding her last two jobs” J.  Carolyn made phone calls and was passed around a lot but finally found the right contact and began the process of getting everything set up.  The Red Cross explained that she would need to find a location for the event, and she found Seekers Church, which has proven to be an excellent partner. 

Here is Carolyn at the event - Photo by Joe Carabeo, Astray Productions
The group is now readying for their FOURTH blood drive, and Carolyn told me that the events just get better every time.  The Red Cross, obviously a huge organization, even lets the artists stray from the traditional blood drive template so that they can be more CREATIVE in their announcement!  I am guessing that creativity is what draws people in (see what I did there – “draws people in”…)  Artist Steve Artley has drawn their ads, including mascots like a zombie, vampire, and werewolf.  Because the blood draws happen near Halloween, these characters are perfect!  The artists even dress up in costumes.  The whole idea just makes giving blood FUN.  I mean, not only do the participants get to meet very talented cartoonists, they also take home an original piece of artwork.  Plus, of course they are giving back to the community by giving blood in the first place!  I would say that is a win, win, win, WIN! 

These people got the memo that costumes are encouraged (not required)
Photo by Joe Carabeo, Astray Productions
Carolyn says that each donation of a pint of blood can save the life of up to three people.  At their events, they strive to schedule one person to donate blood every 15 minutes.  The Red Cross sets targets for them, which they were proud to exceed last year.  Carolyn told me, “If you are on the fence about donating blood, I can say from experience that it is very easy to do.  You walk out the door afterward with the mindset that you saved someone’s life.  It is very much a superhero thing to do!”.

Of course, Carolyn is a Kindness Activist for taking the initiative to organize these worthwhile events, but she couldn’t do it without the talented artists who volunteer their time and skill.  Some of the people who volunteer to do cartoons for the events are members of the DC Chapter of the National Cartoonists Society and some are part of the group DC Conspiracy. 

Great work!!
Photo by Joe Carabeo, Astray Productions

This Washington Post article (article here)  is a great representation of the excellent results that come out of Cartoonists Draw Blood.  My favorite part of the article is the parents who used the event as a way to teach their 3 children the importance of giving back and donating blood.  What an invaluable lesson taught in a fun way!

Carolyn said it simply, “The Cartoonists Draw Blood event is a path in life that feels like the right thing to do.  A big thanks to Troy-Jeffrey Allen for co-chairing the event and to all of the artists, writers, photographers, fans, and blood donors who have participated.”

Kind Artist at work!  Photo by Joe Carabeo, Astray Productions
Well it wouldn’t be right to close this piece out without letting YOU know how you can get in on the action, now would it??  As luck would have it, the next Cartoonists Draw Blood event is right around the corner!  Start planning your Halloween costume now, because you can wear it on Saturday October 29th 10:00 am – 3:30 pm at Seekers Church – 276 Carroll Street NW, Washington DC (right across from the Takoma Park Metro).  Find out more information and express your interest at Facebook event link or email to make your appointment!

Even if you are not in the metro DC area and can’t come out for this fun event, please consider donating blood in your hometown.  It can save lives, and it is a downright KIND thing to do!

You can also check out the Cartoonists Draw Blood blog  here  or at Carolyn’s blog here ,  

For more information about the American Red Cross, click here .

For more information about the National Cartoonists Society, click here .

And last but not least, make sure to follow @KindActivist on Twitter!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

7 Year Old Kindness - UPDATE!

You may remember Kemper from “7 Year Old Kindness” (original story on Kemper can be found here) – the sweet-hearted, amazing little boy in Omaha.  Well, a lot has happened since you read about him!!

Kemper loves baseball
First off, after trying out for a couple of special baseball teams, he WAS CHOSEN FOR ONE (the Millard Blue Legends)!  Go Kemp!!  He was, of course, sad after he didn't make it on the first try-out to be on the team with a great coach he has had for the last couple of years, an ex-minor league ball player.  But, after the tears calmed down a bit, Kemper, all of his own accord, said, "It is fair, really.  I got to have that coach already, and now some boys who haven't had him yet get to."  Way to be a great sport, Kemper.  Here he is in a Royals outfit (no, he didn’t get picked for the ROYALS team, but he does like them!)

And secondly, he competed in his first TRIATHALON!  The open water lake swim was longer than had been advertised in the promotional materials, so his mamma was nervous for him, but he DID IT!!!!! 
Kemper is part fish, part boy.  He is an excellent swimmer
His mom told me that by far the best part of the whole triathlon experience for her was watching Kemper help a fellow athlete (after his own race was over) by running alongside her bike when she was way behind and having a hard time.  She needed encouragement, so that is exactly what Kemper gave her.  That’s our boy!

Biking, too??  Whew - go Kemper go!
Kemper, we are proud of you.  You did exactly what adult Kindness Activists do, and you are still a KID!  I can’t even imagine what great stuff you will do when you are an adult.

Just to prove he did the triathlon, here are very short video clips of the swim, bike, and run.



Friday, July 22, 2016

Share-In Kindness

We met Sharon Mahoney, a performer who has entertained audiences world wide, in a little restaurant in Winnipeg, Canada.  She (like us) was in town for the Winnipeg Fringe Festival.  

Sharon performing
We were talking with her and eating when a woman walked in and asked the restaurant staff for a key to the washroom.  They told her that the bathrooms were for customers only.

It was an awkward moment…  I think we were the only CUSTOMERS in the place, and we had heard the refusal.  The woman didn’t look like she had enough money to BE a customer, so plopping down money just to pee wasn’t going to happen.

She approached us and said, “He won’t let me use the washroom.  I really need to go to the bathroom.  And I am hungry…”.  She was not BEGGING, she was not really even ASKING for money.  But she was sad, and she was hungry, and she needed to use the bathroom.

So Sharon did something about it.  She said, “If you are hungry, I will buy you something to eat!”.  And up the 2 of them went to the counter.  She let the woman pick out whatever she wanted and Sharon paid.  And now the woman was a CUSTOMER, she also got restroom rights.

Sharon stepping up and being KIND - buying a stranger's meal
I sat and smiled.  Why hadn’t I pulled out my wallet??  And why did Sharon instinctively know that buying the woman food, ensuring she could use the bathroom, was the kind, moral, and RIGHT thing to do???

So after the woman used the washroom, got her food, and left, I asked Sharon about it.  She explained that she can’t bear to see people hungry.  That is a philosophy I can so get behind – FOOD should be a human right.  It is a NEED – clean water and food should be available for everyone.  She told me that she would much rather buy someone food than hand them money, and that it is not the first time she had done that (which was obvious to me by the graceful way she did it, allowing the woman to totally keep her dignity).

Actual sign at the restaurant - perfect for this situation, eh??
Sharon also told me that she can relate to having to go to the bathroom!  And seriously, who can’t???  Seeing that woman not be able to get into a public bathroom made me stop and examine my privilege – I mean, I am a clean, white woman, I can pretty much just pop into any Starbucks or McDonald’s and use a bathroom without being questioned.  And if it is locked and for customers only, I have some money in my pocket to buy a soda and get the bathroom key.  But many people are not as fortunate as me.

LOVE this shot of Sharon performing!  (photo credit Cameron Knowlton Photography) 
I also want to point out here – it is not like Sharon is a multi-millionaire.  She is a performer for heaven’s sake J .  She gave of herself, her hard earned money, to buy that woman dinner. 

Sharon – thanks for reminding me to keep my eyes open to others in need and showing me a classy, graceful way to help out.  You made a big difference in that woman’s day, and I hope your kindness inspires others to help, too!

If you are in Winnipeg, please be sure to check out Sharon’s solo show, “The Lion, the Bitch, and the Wardrobe”.  She has been working super hard to promote it and get people to come, and I know she would love to see you in the audience! Only two more chances to catch her amazing show – July 22 at 9:00 pm and July 24 at 1:45 pm.   Link to tickets here:  The Lion, the Bitch, and the Wardrobe tickets

And check out her website at

If you see kindness in action or know of a Kindness Activist, please email me at and tell me!  And be sure to follow Kindness Activist on Twitter.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Fringe Kindness

I don’t want to over-generalize, but I have to put this out there:  PEOPLE IN WINNIPEG (Manitoba) CANADA ARE NICE.  They are polite.  They are KIND.  They THANK THE BUS DRIVER when they get off the bus for heaven’s sake!

We are in Winnipeg for the annual Fringe Festival.  Fringe Festivals are events that host performers from around the world.  Most shows are one hour long.  Most tickets at this festival are ten bucks.  So for a tenner audience members have the chance to see something amazingly mind-blowing or, once in a while, a clunker.  But hey, it is only an hour of your time and only ten dollars (Canadian, which is less if you convert it to American dollars…).

Our show image- David as the popcorn sales man in a precarious situation on the high wire!!
The Fringe is a huge event for this town.  People say (even Winnipegers say, so this is not a slam…) that there is not a whole lot to DO here, so they really get into their Fringe.  And man they DO get into it!  When we were here in 2010 the city BUSES had Fringe ads on them!!  This time, the paper bags from the liquor stores have Fringe promos!!!  People actually take TIME OFF OF WORK – like an ENTIRE WEEK – to go see Fringe shows.  It.  Is.  Fabulous.

Winnipeg Fringe 2010 - ads on BUSES - seriously, what city DOES THAT?  Winnipeg rocks.
Anyway, David is doing his one man show here (“A Little Business at the Big Top”, which, if I might boast a bit, is wonderfully fun and inventive!).  Part of doing festivals like this is marketing your show – Winnipeg Fringe has over 165 shows this year, so part of the “job” is convincing patrons that YOUR SHOW is the one they should buy tickets to.  This part of the job is something that David and I are not great at…  You basically have to walk around saying how great your piece is and hand people postcards that list your show time and venue.  Some people are happy to hear about your show, others not so much…

Here David models our new "sign on a stick" PLUS "hat with postcard".  Pullin' out all the stops...  :)
But every once in a while you run into someone fabulous, like we did today!  This is me and GERRY.  She saw us walking down the sidewalk with what I like to call our “sign on a stick” (ours is new, but every other touring performer has had them for years.  Welcome to the band wagon, Susan and David…).  Anyway, Gerry came up to US and started telling us how much she LOVED THE SHOW!!!  She had seen it that afternoon and regaled us of all of the bits she liked and remembered!  It was lovely!!!!  She was so appreciative and supportive!!  She said she had already told lots of friends to get tickets to “A Little Business” and as we talked she would stop people walking by and say things like “THIS SHOW IS GREAT!  GO SEE THIS ONE!!  Get a ticket for “A Little Business at the Big Top”!: while pointing to our sign as strangers walked by.  We had to reassure them that we hadn’t paid her to say such nice things!!

But wait, it gets even better.  (CAN it get even better??)

After talking at length about the show, we started talking about Winnipeg and things to do here.  She recommended the Canadian Museum of Human Rights ( ) and a museum that houses the largest collection of Inuit Art (I think this is the site: ).  We had wanted to go to the Human Rights Museum and hadn’t heard about the art museum, so we were excited by her recommendations.  I explained that museums where we live (Washington DC) are free, and that we are spoiled by that, and asked if she knew how much the museums here charge for entry.  I just wanted a general idea of how much we would be spending.  She replied that she thought they were around $15, which I said sounded reasonable.

The amazingly KIND Gerry!!  Thank you for making us feel so welcome here
We kept talking and after a while, Gerry opened her bag.  She pulled out her wallet.  She GAVE US $20 and told us to use it to go to the museum of our choice, she wanted to TREAT US!!!  Isn’t that soooo kind???  We couldn’t believe it!  And she wouldn’t take no for an answer.

So THANK YOU Gerry.  You certainly reinforced our notion that people from Winnipeg are amazingly sweet.  Your kindness will not be forgotten.  And as we explore a museum (thanks to YOU) we will smile and remember your kindness and generosity.

Here is Gerry telling what she thought about the show!  Notice her green Kindness Activist button!!  

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