Nation-wide campaign encourages people to spread kindness

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FARMINGTON — After Keira Reed was diagnosed with leukemia in October, hospital staff told her about a Farmington nonprofit called Peach's Neet Feet.

The organization, which was founded by Farmington resident Madison Steiner, provides custom-painted shoes to children with disabilities and those who have been diagnosed with serious illnesses in an effort to lift their spirits.

The 10-year-old Adair, Iowa, resident sent an application to the nonprofit, and, shortly after, another family who was also dealing with cancer delivered the shoes to the Reeds. Through that interaction, the Reeds learned about the "Hustle Kindness" movement. They've been hooked ever since.

"It gives us something to look forward to each week," said Jamaica Reed, Keira's mother, when reached by phone last week.

The nation-wide Hustle Kindness movement encourages residents to perform random acts of kindness. Many people wear "Hustle Kindness" T-shirts as they spread cheer on Fridays, which have been dubbed "Hustle Fridays."  Many participants in the movement say it offers a respite from the seemingly constant stream of tragedies that has dominated the news recently.

Annie Smith coined the phrase a few years ago to encourage Steiner, her daughter, not to give up on the idea for Peach’s Neet Feet.

"I would just say to her, 'You just have to hustle kindness,'" Smith said.

This summer, Peach's Neet Feet secured a trademark for the term "Hustle Kindness." The movement has picked up steam across the country as celebrities such as Selena Gomez and Zac Efron posted photos of themselves wearing the T-shirts on social media.

Facebook | @Zac Efron

#tbt to when I graduated preschool. Srsly ...

 

But Steiner hasn't let that distract her trying to get the local community involved.

"You can’t sell kindness, so you have to hustle it," Steiner said as she helped volunteers on Friday prepare to distribute "Hustle Kindness" T-shirts at San Juan College's adaptive sports clinic.

Each Friday, volunteers meet at the Peach's Neet Feet headquarters in Farmington, called the Mad Lab. There, they break into groups and go into the community to perform their acts of kindness. At the site of each good deed, they leave a small card that reads "You have been hustled."

The movement has caught on with even young residents. Each week, Colin Waggoner, 4, picks a "Hustle Kindness" activity that his family completes. This week, he chose to bring doughnuts to New Mexico State Police officers in Farmington. He and his eight-month-old sister, Brynn, were among the youngest volunteers to participate in Friday's activities.

"In a world where you can be anything, you might as well be kind," said Jaclyn Waggoner, Colin and Brynn’s mother.

The youngest participant on Friday was Deacon Ritter, who was born less than two weeks ago. He was joined by his parents, Clint and Ashley Ritter, and his sister, Brooke Willcox, 10. On Friday, they walked around their neighborhood and left thank-you cards and gift certificates to Durango Joe’s on police officers' cars.

Clint Ritter said it is important that his children learn how to be kind to others.

"You’ve got to lead by example," Ritter said.

Leading by example is one reason the city of Farmington has joined the movement. The Farmington Police Department, for example, is designing "Hustle Kindness" shirts for its employees.

"As city employees, we are working for the community," said police spokeswoman Georgette Allen.

Many people who participate in the movement say they have noticed a simple act of kindness often encourages the recipient to pay it forward.

"It just seems to be almost contagious when you talk about it," said Jamaica Reed, the mother from Iowa.

Retired high school counselor Karen Morrison became involved in Farmington's "Hustle Kindness" as a way to counteract an onslaught of negativity.

"I just needed to get out of all this negativity, especially in this political season that is going on," she said.

She said the movement has changed her attitude, making her less judgmental and less likely to get upset about small things, such as getting cut off in traffic.

"You can't change other people, you can only change the situation that you find yourself in," she said

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

More info

Learn more about the "Hustle Kindness" movement at peachsneetfeet.com.

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