Kindness rocks and I’m honored to have won the Channel Kindness Award sponsored by Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation and Peace First. I’m thankful for the support and mentorship that I received as I planned an event for kids and adults that valued diversity, inclusion, kindness, and joy.

I’m 14 years old, and I serve as the Co-Founder and Creative Director of Catching Joy, Inc., a 501c3 non-profit which promotes volunteerism and acts of kindness beginning with kids, teens, and families. We organize hands-on activities that youth can do to help teach the joy of giving. Our motto is: ”You got it give it!” We believe that kids have so much to give – time, talent, care, creativity, imagination, and idealism.

On September 1, with the help of Born This Way Foundation and Peace First, I hosted a Catching Joy Channel Kindness event at the Blue Bunny Bookstore in Dedham, Massachusetts. More than 75 kids and adults joined me celebrating kindness with books, music, arts and crafts, and rainbow cupcakes! Children’s author Holly McGhee and illustrator Pascal Lemaitre shared their New York Time bestseller, Come With Me, a new picture book which shares the message that kids can do little things that can change the world. Family-friendly musician Stacey Peasley got kids singing and dancing. Even the Boston Red Sox supported the event and donated a baseball signed by Jackie Bradley Jr. for our raffle.

The highlight of the event was the giving projects. Kids and adults wrote positive words on decorated hearts. Some of the messages read “Kindness Matters,” “Embrace Diversity,” “Spread Joy,” and “Love.” In light of the violence and unrest in Charlottesville, we made more than 80  hearts for Refugees International to be distributed to organizations that work directly with refugee families. The project gave people a way to feel connected, show compassion, and help lift people up.

We also collected 125 socks for Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program to aid people less fortunate. Socks are an essential item that homeless people need especially in Boston. It is our responsibility to help, and it feels good to share with others. It costs just a couple dollars for a pair of socks that will keep a homeless person’s feet warm. When we give these necessities, we show that we care and help give people dignity. But, we can do more, and we have to do more.

Both, Born This Way and Peace First have empowered me to use my passion to make a difference. They taught me the importance of three C’s: compassion, courage, and collaboration. I have learned that the greatest superpower is empathy. When we understand what it is like to be in another person’s shoes, then we’ll feel compelled to do something to help. We have to find the courage to raise our voices and take action. Also, we can accomplish more when we work together.

As a special surprise, I was invited to go to Lady Gaga’s concert at Fenway Park, and I was honored to meet Born This Way co-founder Cynthia Germonatta (Lady Gaga’s mother). It was an inspiring show, and the audience was fired up. I like Lady Gaga’s music, and I admire her talent. Born This Way stands for acceptance, love, and valuing each other’s differences. I’m inspired by their message: “Just be kind. The act itself is free, and it’s priceless.”

Rock on.

By Maxwell Surprenant

Images via @PeaceFirst