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Have you ever wasted a few too many hours watching YouTube videos? Single dad Chris Hooley and his 11-year-old daughter Kaylee are no different, and one steamy Arizona day last summer they found TrueStoryASA’s YouTube video “Make The Homeless Smile- Worldwide”. Instead of continuing on to a grumpy cat or other lighthearted and funny video, they decided to get out from behind the computer screen and brighten someone’s day. They bought cases of Gatorade and drove through areas of Phoenix with large homeless populations and passed out the drinks to give to people who were struggling to find a reason to smile.

While sparking smiles was gratifying, Chris and Kaylee soon realized that the homeless needed much more than Gatorade; they needed basic necessities like socks, toiletries, and other items that most of us take for granted. They knew they needed an army in order to make a difference on a large scale, so they founded reKindle, a charity working to help those less fortunate and inspire others to do the same. They believe the only way to eradicate homelessness is to rekindle a crusade of kindness through America and inspire everyone to participate. Want to get involved? All you have to do is help someone in need! They also organize reKindle street walks and “I Got Your Back” backpack drives to deliver essentials to homeless in their hometown and cities across the country.

Homelessness is often misunderstood and many people judge before truly connecting on a personal level and empathizing with the situation. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, in January 2014 there were over 578,424 people living in homelessness in the United States on any given night. That is over a half a million Americans without shelter from the elements, trying to find a place to stay warm, safe, and dry for the night. About 15% of the homeless population, 84,291, is considered “chronically homeless” and 9%, 49,933, are veterans. Can you imagine not knowing where your next meal was going to come from? Or where you were going to have your family sleep for the night? Being homeless often comes with a stigma- that they somehow caused their misfortune, are an addict, or do not want to be helped. But many are college graduates, veterans, and others whose life took an unfortunate turn. Regardless of what caused someone to be homeless, they are still mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, and friends. They have basic needs like the rest of us and deserve the opportunity to satisfy those needs.

reKindle is working to show that everyone is fighting a battle and has a story to tell.

“People tend to paint things with a broad brush so they can justify ignoring the tragedies that are happening every day right in front of them. Sometimes showing the human side of homelessness, introducing the world to these hard luck individuals and letting their stories be heard, or having people see the joy that ANYBODY can bring to those in need is all it takes to change a heart,” says Chris. Chris and Kaylee emphasize the need to change the conversation and bring attention to people and causes that matter. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect, kindness, and compassion.

Chris continues, “People are sitting at their house getting mad at Kanye West for some awards show blunder, or getting riled up at arguing politicians. They are constantly consuming a stream of negative media that is preying on their inclination to focus on the bad.

Sometimes all they need is to see that they can walk right outside their door and change the world at any time.

If they tune out from those non-consequential distractions and stop worrying about things not in their control and take control themselves, maybe they can change the world for just one person, who turns around and does the same thing to somebody else. The kindness can cause a ripple effect. If you light a fire in somebody, sometimes they turn around and light a fire in somebody else. That's why we like to say to each other: ‘Inspire fire!’”

As Kaylee explains, helping others just feels good, “Going out on the streets and giving items to homeless people.  Seeing everyone smile, both the volunteers and the homeless people we are helping. That's usually the thing I like to do. Make everyone happy, no drama.” Chris is one proud father of his little leader and says that through reKindle Kaylee has become a “rock star in her own right, which is probably the best part for me personally. She's become so much more confident, she's a little powerhouse now.”

reKindle is one organization benefiting from the sales of Do the KIND Thing, a new handbook for social entrepreneurs by Daniel Lubetzky, Founder and CEO of KIND Snacks. Prior to the book’s release, KIND set out to identify everyday individuals who have gone above and beyond for kindness. Chris and Kaylee’s empathetic attitude toward one of society’s vulnerable populations – the homeless – touched the KIND team, and they knew they wanted to help reKindle gain awareness and scale their efforts.

What’s next for reKindle? Chris and Kaylee are only just beginning to rev the engine on their kindness machine. Their newest project, Meters that Matter, is a campaign to involve school track teams with reKindle acts of kindness. “It's big and ambitious, and if done properly, could be huge!” said Chris. They also plan to expand the “I Got Your Back” Backpack drives, encourage others to launch their own kindness drives, and catalyze a #Kindness365 campaign where people perform one kind act a day and share those acts on social media. They want to make kindness go viral.

If you or someone you know wants to start a passion project, Kaylee and Chris encourage you make the leap. With no hesitation, Chris exclaims, “DO IT! Just do it! Don't let your fears stop you from shaking things up. We all only have so many spins around the sun, and when we are all long gone, what will YOUR legacy be? Will you be the person who left behind the most toys? A person who thought the world owed them something and never got it? A person who won't have a big huge party at your wake? Be notable! Stand up and stand out! It's OK to get scared, I still do. But me and K won't let it stop us, and neither should you.”

This father daughter duo is dedicated to sharing kindness, one smile and act at a time, and a true testament to how one moment can change everything.

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FROM THE EDITOR
At Conscious, we are inspired by remarkable people and organizations, and so we set out to tell stories that highlight human-interests, global initiatives, innovation, community development, and social impact. You can read more stories like this when you subscribe.

This article is in partnership with KIND Snacks as part of the Do The KIND Thing Campaign.

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