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Park Rapids Area High School athletes took time to sign autographs for Panther Cub Club members this week. At right, fourth-graders Autumn Back and Kora Just eagerly await signatures from some of the girls they look up to. (Anna Erickson)

Park Rapids students taking 'be kind' initiative to heart

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Park Rapids Century students are embracing the importance of being kind to others this week.

Several activities are planned for "Be Kind" week in Park Rapids.

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Monday, Panther Cub Club members met Park Rapids' high school sports stars for autograph night. Free hot dogs, pop and door prizes were available to students.

Today (Wednesday), students are encouraged to wear their "Be Kind" t-shirts and bracelets, which are being sold throughout the week at Century.

Thursday, students are wearing red to honor and remember everyone affected by heart disease. Students are encouraged to wear red all day and evening to the basketball games. Gear will be on sale all week. A kick-off pep rally is at 2:15 p.m. in the gym with the FM Acrobats performing.

Friday, students will wear their favorite sports jersey.

Saturday is Bingo for Books from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in the cafetorium. Students are asked to bring a book they have finished to donate for next year.

The "Be Kind" initiative is now in full swing in Park Rapids.

Drew Stevens, a father whose son, Josh, tragically lost his life in an accident at age 13, reached out to the community in the fall by telling his story in Park Rapids. Since then the school has been following the initiative with students taking the lead.

Park Rapids is the first town in Minnesota to bring the "Be Kind" program to its schools.

The Josh Stevens Foundation was created to honor his life and the example he set for us all to follow.

Josh was always doing something kind for someone else.

When Josh was kind to others, seeing how it made them feel, it inspired him to pour out more kindness. It was a necessity to him. And when a person would say "thank you" to him, it filled him so full, that it would make his day.

This is how and why the Josh Stevens Foundation and the kindness card were created. It's a simple way to "catch" a child and let them know that their genuine kindness can change the world. The hope is that children being "caught" will be inspired to be more kind, more often.

The Josh Stevens Foundation has partnered with youth sports and schools. The hope is to spread awareness about the Josh Stevens Foundation and its goal of recognizing and rewarding a child's heartfelt kind act. The foundation started with Paseo Verde Little League because this was where Josh played baseball for six years. The program has been expanded to schools and other organizations to spread the message of kindness.

The foundation has created the "You've Been Caught Being Kind" trifold gift cards. These cards are presented to a child "caught" being kind by a member of the "Kindness Patrol."

The purpose of the Josh Stevens Foundation and the tri-fold card is to remind children that there is a whole wide world in need of more acts of kindness. The foundation wants children to know that people really do appreciate their kind actions, even though most times they go unnoticed.

Park Rapids is using the cards and rewarding students for their acts of kindness with wristbands and t-shirts.

For more information on the Josh Stevens Foundation go to www.joshstevens foundation.org.

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Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561
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