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Carroll County Times
Carroll County Lifestyles

Westminster 10-year-old spreads kindness by creating birthday bash bags for kids in need

Ten-year-old Olivia Smith used her school lunch break on Thursday to make a special delivery to Shepherd’s Staff in Westminster — seven “birthday bash” bags filled with a large gift and all the makings for a successful birthday party, including cake mix and frosting, a festive tablecloth, party favors and a birthday hat or crown for the guest of honor.

Olivia recently received a $170 Kid Kindness Grant from the Maryland-based nonprofit Kindness Grows Here to fund her idea of the birthday bash bags. She used the funds to purchase all the items for seven bags, four for girls and three for boys, and delivered the bags to Shepherd’s Staff, a Westminster nonprofit that agreed to distribute them children in need.

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“Some kids can’t get presents for their birthdays, so we provided them,” said Olivia, who also designed a handmade birthday card for each bag.

The Westminster Middle School fourth-grader was looking for ways to help others when her mother, Julia Smith, learned about the Kindness Grows Here, whose mission is spreading kindness in local communities. Since 2018, the nonprofit has offered Kid Kindness Grants to youths ages 5 to 18 who present an idea on how to spread kindness.

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Grants range from $250 for individuals to $700 for groups, according to Kristen DeBoy Caminiti, founder and president of Kindness Grows Here.

Caminti grew up in Catonsville and now lives in Crofton with her family. She created the nonprofit in 2016, when she and her three children set out to spread random acts of kindness in their community. That effort eventually expanded and grew into Kindness Grows Here.

“Simple ideas can spread kindness,” Caminiti said. “It does not have to be a huge gesture. We’re looking for that person-to-person connection.”

Applications are accepted each fall and winners are announced around Thanksgiving. For one funded projects a grantee collected and refurbished musical instruments for kids and for another a recipient provided flowers every Friday for a year to a different teacher, Caminiti said.

Since its start, the nonprofit has given grants to individuals in 26 states and four countries.

“People hear ‘grant’ and think it is this big, competitive process,” Caminiti said. “This is very kid friendly.”

In her application, Olivia described what she wanted to do and estimated costs at roughly $25 per bag. In November, she received a check from the nonprofit for $170 to make her vision happen.

Olivia and her mom went shopping to get supplies and also received some party supply donations from individuals who wanted to help.

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“She has such a big heart,” Julia said. “She did this all by herself.”

By accepting the grant, Olivia agreed to document her project’s progress by taking photos and submitting receipts to Kindness Grows Here.

“It is a real cool way for her to reach out to the community,” said Brenda Meadows, executive director of Shepherd’s Staff. “It is something different that will really make a difference.”

The nonprofit, which provides temporary assistance for Carroll County residents in crisis, has received birthday themed donations before, but Olivia’s gifts were the whole package, with a present and birthday supplies, Meadows said. To give that to a parent who might not otherwise have the means, is “a beautiful thing,” Meadows said.

“It will change your life,” Meadows said.

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That is what Kindness Grows Here is all about, Caminiti said.

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“We are always looking to get more kids involved in this process,” Caminiti said. “We want to empower kids to take charge.”

Olivia, who plays viola and participates in Girls on the Run, a nonprofit aimed at strengthening girls’ social, emotional, physical and behavioral skills, is already thinking about her next project.

“Maybe Christmas?” Olivia said. “Holiday bags?”

Caminti said Olivia’s ideas are on track with what the nonprofit aims to provide.

“Olivia’s birthday bags were awesome,” Caminiti said. “To know a kid took time to put this together, is a connection.”

Applications for the 2022 Kid Kindness Grant program will open on Sept. 1. Find out more about the program and the nonprofit’s other efforts at kindnessgrowshere.com.


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