The Infinite Smile Project’s story in OC’s biggest newspaper

This is our half-page article in the Orange County Register on Tuesday, July 15, 2014. Thank you so much, Suzanne, for making this happen. We were so excited about our article and all the amazing feedback we received today. We are truly blessed.

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Kim Esmond Contributing Columnist

Life never stops at the Esmond household. A husband that makes the dreaded 405 commute from Orange County to LAX every day, two crazy toddlers, and me, the creator and owner of a multi-city children’s dance company running over 145 classes a week and managing 20 instructors. I doubt there is a need to state that I am sleep deprived and have coffee running through my veins. All that came to a halt, however, and our priorities were set straight when our then 2 ½ year old daughter, Racquel, fell ill. While relaxing at dinner with some friends we got a call from her pediatrician on a Saturday night that said she needed surgery immediately. Her heart had a large hole in it and her lungs were quickly filling with blood, depriving her of oxygen and making her cough. Our lives became filled with uncertainty and ambiguity.
As we spent what seemed to be endless nights at the hospital, and then with Racquel on home care, old friends, new friends, co-workers, and even acquaintances made their appearance with anything and everything we needed. It was during these three months of this process that I felt the need to repay the kindness that was so selflessly extended to us, and I wanted my children to be included, too.
Then the idea hit me. I would take my girls on a day of random acts of kindness to pay it forward. We passionately put together care packages for deployed Marines, wrapped boxes of dog and cat treats with big blue bows for the animal shelter, a gift basket of ice-cream with toppings and cones for our local fire station, and tied boxes of crayons to coloring books to help replenish the “Treasure Chest” at Children’s Hospital of Orange County. We had taken many gifts from that chest, so it was time to fill it back again for other recovering children. We would hand a kindness wand with each act, explaining what we were doing.
Some acts were done anonymously, which was just as exciting. For example, we would place handmade, shimmering wands in the sand at the park with free sand toys attached. We would place them all over the park and hide back in the car and watch children approach them cautiously and then become overwhelmed with excitement when they learned their average day at the park turned into something special. A few hours of kindness had spread so much happiness around our community. It was infectious and contagious, so we worked diligently to scatter smiles everywhere we went. It was exhilarating.

wands in sand

These buckets, shovels and bubbles were left at a park for some lucky kids to the Infinite Smile Project.

The intention of this day was merely to pay it forward and teach my kids what kindness, generosity and selflessness feels like. To give them an understanding at a young, impressionable age what it means to be kind, make others happy – to give without expectations of anything return – and how good it makes them feel so they would keep on doing it. Gradually throughout the day I watched my kids become more confident, happy, loving and engaging with others. At barely 3 years of age they understood the cause and effect of kindness, they beamed with pride and it already had begun to internally change them. Their excitement and passion told me that this was something we needed to mold and shape into a concept for all ages to incorporate into their lives and homes.
I sat and jotted down various words, ideologies and concepts. Circled heavily in the center of the page was “Acts of kindness do not need to be done in light of tragedy alone. What if we incorporated kindness, tolerance and a philanthropic spirit into kids starting at age 3 as an integral part of their life? How would it change the community in which we live?” I started to read, research and think more about this philosophy and started to see the message. The message was that kindness and communication breaks down the laws of distance and promotes tolerance and understanding. They surpass any barriers of culture, race, income, interests and beliefs when done with a pure heart from a place of selflessness and not for gain.
As I thought about the hot news topics – school shootings, bullying and violence amongst our youth – I thought of the effects such acts of kindness could have in years to come for our kids and communities if practiced consistently. Think of the bullied child for example – if kindness, communication and outreach from even one person outside the family were shown, it could save a life.
It was these ideologies and more that helped create our social experiment, the Infinite Smile Project or ISP. It’s rooted in the concept that if we came together as a community and made kindness and a philanthropic spirit an integral part of our daily and weekly activities, it will affect our children’s future well-being, happiness, and safety. Incorporating this mind-set in every part of our lives can happen. I believe in it 100 percent.
How to accomplish such a feat you ask? ISP has a few surprises up our sleeve, plus it’ll be offering free ideas, instructions, printable crafts and events to participate in on its blog. Also, this summer the ISP website will feature a map of the U.S., where parents can locate volunteer and kindness opportunities in their area searching by their child’s age. ISP’s philosophy is, “If we make it fun, they will come.” In the meantime, pass on the kindness and watch it spread.

homeless wand

The Infinite Smile Project offers a structure to teach kids how to act kindly, such as giving a sleeping bag to a homeless man.

Kim Esmond is the creator of the Infinite Smile Project.
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