One ‘kind’ of race: Race for Kindness is starting block for acts of service

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Teams look for their number bags at the start of the 2021 Race for Kindness. Each bag contained instructions and supplies for completing several acts of kindness in an “Amazing Race”-style competition.

FOUNTAINTOWN — Wash the front window of a local business. Write a note of appreciation to a friend or family member and drop it in the mail. Ask someone in a parking lot if you can say a prayer for them.

Find a cow and take a selfie.

The tasks range from the sincere to the silly, but they’re all part of finishing the Race for Kindness, an “Amazing Race”-inspired event returning to The Fountain, a Christian church in Fountaintown.

“Everyone we ran into had a good time and enjoyed just being silly sometimes,” said Debbie Hahn, who participated in the inaugural race in 2021 with her family. “I think it just brings more awareness to simple ways that you can make a difference in someone’s life.”

Teams of four gather at the church for announcements, prayer and instructions. Then they set out with a list of acts of kindness and the supplies to complete them. Sending a note? There’s a stamped envelope. Giving away a T-shirt? It’s in the kit.

Kindness Delivered, a self-funded non-profit powered by volunteers, sponsors the event and assembles the kits. Co-president Debbie Kraft said one aim of the Race for Kindness is to promote family fun.

It’s open to “anyone who wants to come and participate,” she said. “We want to show the love of Christ out in the community.”

Teams have to stay together, obey speed limit laws and document each task with a selfie, sending it on the spot. Last year, back at The Fountain, Kraft frantically gathered those selfies into a slide show.

The first team to complete the tasks, return to the church, and have completion verified by contest judges won a prize. After returning to the church, all teams shared a catered meal and saw the slide show of the more than 100 acts of kindness performed during two hours.

“The smile said it all,” said Denise Dank, Kraft’s sister and Kindness Delivered treasurer. “Everyone came in energized and smiling and feeling good about having done this.”

The race is one of a wide range of events Kindness Delivered organizes every year. Three years ago Kraft was mulling an organization and turned to two women close to her, Dank and co-president Tisha Myer, and said she didn’t think she could do it alone. They were on board.

So now, in a mobile ministry van, Kindness Delivered’s team travels to churches, schools, nursing homes and other sites. Often bee mascot Tenderheart, named from Bible verse Ephesians 4:32 (“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you”), is along for the “bee-ing” kind.

“We have so much fun doing it, because it really makes a difference in people’s lives,” Kraft said. “There’s not enough kindness in the world.”

The more than 30 events it’s organized or underwritten include many in Hancock County. It’s partnered with the Small Smiles Club at Mt. Vernon High School and with Greenfield Rotary on projects. It paid for an ice cream truck to hand out free treats at Fortville Christians Unite’s community worship night in September.

Also in September, the van traveled to New Palestine Junior High School, where Kindness Delivered treated staff to box lunches from McAlister’s and Amazon gift cards. It also brought the food and music for an outdoor social for a class of students with special needs.

“We’re so thankful that they came to NPJH,” Principal Keith Fessler wrote in an email. “Our staff and students are very appreciative of their generosity. Our students had a fantastic time!”

Though the foundation is self-funded, people touched by past Kindness Delivered events often offer donations or assistance (and urged adding a way to donate to the website). For example, someone at the organization’s inaugural 5K offered to sponsor next year’s event.

“For the team, it just feels like blessing after blessing,” Dank said. “The work we do doesn’t feel like work … it’s fun and it flows.”

Hahn, also outreach ministry leader at The Fountain, looks forward to participating in Race for Kindness again with her family.

“It’s a great organization,” she said. “We love their mission and are just so excited that we can partner with them for this event and any others.”

‘ROOMS WOULD LIGHT UP’

Shelby Kraft didn’t walk or talk during her short life, but “rooms would light up” when she entered, said her mother. Debbie Kraft said her younger daughter was part of multiple Kindness Delivered events.

Shelby died at the age of 30 in March, two years after the launch of the Shelby Foundation for Kindness Delivered. “This mobile ministry inspired by Shelby seeks to deliver and foster acts of kindness,” according to the organization’s website. ” … She spread love and happiness to friends and strangers alike.”

The Oct. 15 Bee the Light 5K honored Shelby and a caring aide who worked with her. The aide is an avid runner who pushed Shelby’s wheelchair in a couple of 5Ks.

Debbie Kraft said she’s grateful to have this foundation bearing her daughter’s name. “It kind of helps keep her memory alive.”

JOIN THE RACE

Register your team of four family members or friends for the 2022 Race for Kindness at yourfountain.org/race. The event is limited to 25 teams, who’ll compete for a grand prize of $800. Each team must register online by the end of the day Nov. 3. Each team will need a driver and vehicle to use during the race. The race begins at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 5. After the race there will be a free meal and free raffles.