PROJECT KINDNESS – Using times of personal adversity to show kindness to others.
How do you respond when the doctor tells you that your unborn child has a chromosomal abnormality which means she’ll only live a few hours after birth? Do you curse God? Do you stay in bed all day and try to ignore reality? Do you isolate yourself from family and friends?
There are people who will or have answered “yes” to these questions and then there is Kelli Kizzee. Instead of giving in to her grief, she chose to make her daughter’s life count for something. The result – Project Kindness was started and a few months later, a miracle arrived by the name of Allie Kizzee.
“It was a really tough pill to swallow. I was so sad and angry for a while, and I had days when I didn’t want to get out of bed,” said Kelli. “However, my amazing husband reminded me one day that doctors don’t have all the answers and more importantly, we have her now and we needed to make the most of it. I was guilty of making it all about me when I decided her life would matter, no matter how long she was with us.”
Project Kindness started in the Kizzee home when Kelli turned her grief into something positive. She and some of her friends got together one weekend and made bracelets for a local senior citizens center. “I found a lot of joy in helping others,” Kizzee said.
Not a rookie to adversity, Kelli herself has overcome numerous obstacles in her life, including a painful medical condition she started experiencing at age eight. At one of her lowest moments, Kelli said God sent an angel into her life, a woman named Carol who showed compassion and encouragement. Despite Carol’s battle with cancer, she reached out to Kelli at the right time and offered hope. After Carol’s death, Kelli honored her memory by writing letters of hope to shut-ins, took her dog to nursing homes to visit residents, and volunteered at a Hospice center.
In March 2010, Kelli gave birth to Allie, a healthy baby girl, and Project Kindness continued to grow. More of Kelli’s friends and their children joined the team and participated in monthly service projects.
“It’s the mission of Project Kindness to inspire all people to give back to their community by using their time and talents to help those who need it most….one act of kindness at a time,” said Kizzee.
More importantly, Project Kindness has become a great example for children to learn about community service as more kids in the Monrovia area are either helping their peers or kids throughout the state, this country and internationally. One of their first projects was making dresses from pillowcases to send to children in Haiti.
Other projects have included making dolls and bears for children rescued from abuse, creating comfort bags for kids in foster care, building a raised garden at WellSpring Center so homeless families could learn how to grow vegetables and have food to eat, as well as putting together 70 Christmas care packages for residents at Miller’s Merry Manor.
The Community Foundation of Morgan County (CFMC) supports the work of Project Kindness and in January 2017, it awarded a Capacity Grant to purchase supplies for sensory tools given to children with special needs including Autism and Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
More than 35 volunteer families assembled sensory calming bottles and bags for special education and occupational therapy programs in Morgan County Schools. These bottles/bags also serve as a visual anchor to help students maintain their focus and provide a physical outlet that’s not destructive.
“Our children had so much fun working on this project because they knew it would really help kids their age,” said Kelli. “I’m proud of them.”
To show kindness to individuals and families in need from the Monrovia community, Project Kindness set up a “Blessing Box” that moves to various locations. First, the “Blessing Box” was at the Monrovia Municipal Center and was filled with non-perishable foods for people struggling with hunger. Since that time, the “Blessing Box” has moved to the local library where mittens, scarves, and boots have been donated. In the future, according to Kelli, the “Box” will be used to collect sports equipment to give to various youth leagues in the area.
When Kelli is not busy helping others through Project Kindness and working as a secretary for Monrovia Elementary School, she and her husband, Ky, are raising three girls – Josey, age 11; Allie, age 8; and Kinley, age 4.
In November 2014, Kelli and Ky received devastating news about their “miracle baby”. Allie, four years old at the time, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes (also known as Juvenile Diabetes). There are more than 200,000 cases reported in the United States each year and there is no cure. Treatment focuses on maintaining normal blood sugar levels via regular monitoring, Insulin therapy, diet, and exercise.
To help Kelli, Ky, and family safely manage Allie’s Diabetes, they applied for and traveled to Nebraska to receive a service dog, Ranger, in July 2018. Ranger has been trained to smell when Allie’s body chemicals change due to a rise or drop in her insulin levels and when that happens, he alerts either Kelli or Ky, so they can quickly respond.
Since Allie is not ready to take Ranger to school with her, she uses technology via a cell phone that monitors her insulin levels throughout the day. When a change occurs, Kelli receives an alert on her cell phone.
Both Kelli and Allie are no strangers to pain but have a family inherited resolve dating back to Kelli’s childhood when her father was a rodeo rider to “Cowgirl Up” when life is tough. When they fall, they “dust themselves off” and get back on, but instead of a horse or pony, they help others going through difficulties.
“Crummy things happen in life, but it’s important that you keep giving back,” Kizzee said.
If you’re looking for an opportunity to give back to our community, consider donating to Project Kindness through CFMC. Go online at www.cfmconline.org or call (765) 813-0003 for more information.