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Acts Of Kindness Club WWU

Media Backgrounder
Press contact
: MacKenzie Junor, Erik Swanson and Michaela Trulson (425)577-2328

The Acts Of Kindness Club is an Associated Students of Western Washington University
club, which is dedicated to performing random acts of kindness on campus, as well as in the
Bellingham community. As a club they work to enhance the lives of others by building a
positive environment and helping students become aware of the ways they interact with
others. The Club seeks to combat the stress and mental illness that many of their student
peers struggle with on a daily basis. The club not only wishes to make an impact on
reversing that struggle through random acts of kindness, but also to start a conversation
about mental illness and its impact on college students. AOK was revived last year by
current president, Hanna Webster, and while club numbers fluctuate, their three core
members are passionate and hopeful that the club will thrive. AOK currently meets at 4 p.m.
every Tuesday in Bond Hall, room 114.

Current Activities:
The club works in various ways to spread kindness, including leaving colorful sticky notes
with compliments on them around campus, drawing with chalk in Red Square, giving free
hugs and (Hersheys) kisses, providing a pay-it-forward activity checklist. They also hold

self-care workshops, which help club members bond. On October 23 AOK will hold a
compliment table in Red Square.

Western Washington University was awarded a $294,948 grant from the Substance
Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, for its work in preventing campus
suicides. (Western 2015)

Western Washington University has a suicide prevention program called BRAVE, or

Building Resilience and Voicing Empathy. BRAVE provides resources for survivors,
family and friends, as well as psychoeducation and emergency services. (Brave 2015)

Mayor Kelli Linville, Mayor of Bellingham, recently proclaimed July 20-26 to be
Random Acts of Kindness Week, and asked local citizens to join her in performing
random acts of kindness. (Linville 2015)

In 2011, CBS News rated Bellingham as the third happiest small city. They polled
based on life evaluation, physical health, healthy behavior, emotional health, work and
basic access. (Fried 2011)

National and Regional:

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, over 25% of college students
have been diagnosed or treated for a mental illness by a mental healthcare
professional (Learn 2015)
About 7% of college students have seriously considered suicide over the past year.
(Wsmith 2015)
Random Acts of Kindness (RAK), a national nonprofit, promotes an international
Random Act of Kindness week every year, from February nine-15. It urges people to
step outside of their comfort zone and perform an act of kindness, using the hashtag
#RAKweek2015 to report upon their actions in social media. (Random 2015)

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego and Harvard were able to
provide the first laboratory evidence that behavior is contagious, and can spread from
person to person. This means that the idea of paying it forward could be a reality.
(Kiderra 2015)

In 2011, almost 1,000 people died from suicide in Washington State, making suicide
the eighth leading cause of death in all of Washington, and the second leading cause
of death in residents from the ages of 15-24. (Health 2015)

A study published in BioMedSearch showed that stress and anxiety in college
students hindered them from being able to enjoy leisure time activities. (Misra 2000)

A study showed that there has been a 40 percent decline in empathy among college
students. The study was lead by a team of researchers from the University of
Michigan, who combined the results of 72 studies, which were conducted over the
course of 30 years. (Turkle 2015)
A study from Oregon State University shows that teaching emotional skills and
character development in elementary schools has raised test scores by up to 10
percent. (Positive 2015)
According to an article published on the University Wire, the stigma that is attached
to mental illness is the leading reason college students do not seek treatment.
(Students 2015)
A 2014 study of 120 male and female participants showed that positive personality
traits made the person be perceived as more attractive. Simply put, being nice is
more attractive. (Zhang 2014)

Hanna Webster
- President

Hanna Webster is the President of the Acts of Kindness Club at Western Washington
University. Last year she revived the Acts of Kindness Club from being dormant. Webster is a
second year student here at Western, and is looking to study Behavioral Neuroscience.
When shes not doing school-related activities she enjoys photography, spoken word poetry,
and all aspects of music.

Anna Rhoades
Vice President

Anna Rhoades is the new Vice President of AOK Club at Western. This is her second year at
Western, and although currently an undeclared majored, she is planning on applying to the
elementary education Bachelor of Arts degree at the end of winter quarter. Rhoades became
involved with the Acts of Kindness club because she was looking to get involved in
something rewarding at Western. She feels there is always room for a little more positivity

and kindness in the world, and AOK has allowed her to spread that idea. In her free time
Anna likes to cook and hang out with her friends.

The Random Acts of Kindness Club is an Associated Students club at Western Washington
University. Established in 2014, AOK is devoted to combat mental illness in college students
while bringing kindness and joy to the WWU campus, through random acts of kindness. This
club is built upon its uplifting and surprising public events and many anonymous small acts
of kindness, which are lead by club president, Hanna Webster. For more information, visit
their orgsync page:

BRAVE. Western Washington University. Accessed November 2, 2015.
"Depression among College Students at all-Time High." 2015.
University Wire
, Feb 15.
"Depression Takes Toll on College Students." 2015.
University Wire
, Aug 30.
Fried, Carla. "The 10 Happiest (and Saddest) Cities in the U.S." CBSNews. March 24, 2011.
Accessed October 13, 2015.
Health, Washington State Department Of. "Suicide."
Health of Washington State Report
(n.d.): n. pag.
Department Of Health
. Web. 8 Oct. 2015.
Kiderra, Inga. "'Pay It Forward' Pays Off."
'Pay It Forward' Pays Off
. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Oct.
2015. UC San Diego.
"Learn About The Issue."
NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness
. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Oct.
Linville, Kelli. "Mayoral Proclamation." City Of Bellingham. July 9, 2015. Accessed October 9,
Misra, Ranjita, and Michelle McKean. "College Students Academic Stress and its relation to

Their Anxiety Time Management and Leisure Satisfaction..". BioMedSearch. Accessed

October 13, 2015.
Random Acts of Kindness Foundation
. N.p., n.d .
8 Oct. 2015.
"Students Discuss Mental Illness and its Stigma on Campus." 2015.
University Wire
, Apr 16.

Acts of Kindness Club

Top Ten

1. How can joining this club impact me?

Studies show that positive thoughts and actions have a direct influence on our
physical state of being. At AOK we run with the idea that our positivity can be spread around
campus and directly benefit each individual involved.

2. What do you do?

Acts of Kindness (AOK) is a WWU AS club dedicated to performing random acts of
kindness throughout campus and parts of the surrounding Bellingham community.
Encouraging altruism on campus, we stand for lifting up our fellow human beings. The focus
of AOK is to give support through acts of unsolicited kindness like giving hugs, notes of
encouragement and free smiles on the daily.

3. How do I join?
You can join the club by
coming to a club meeting, performing an act of kindness,

contributing ideas or just giving support. We really appreciate regular attendance at

meetings and events because support is what were all about!

4. What issues are you addressing?

31 percent of college students have felt so depressed in the past year that it was
difficult to function and more than 50 percent have felt overwhelming anxiety, making it

hard to succeed academically. Our goal is to combat these facts with acts of kindness
in order to support our fellow students as well as people in our community.

5. Why are acts of kindness important?

According to a report by the Mental Health Foundations acts of kindness:
Promote positive physiological changes in the brain associated with happiness, bring a
sense of belonging and reduce isolation, Help to keep things in perspective. An act of
kindness can improve confidence, control, happiness and optimism. Reduces stress.
For more information on these statistics follow the link to the MHF

6. Dont people do this on their own already?

According to the Pew Research Institute, empathy among college students has
dropped 40% since 2000.

7. Who is the club president?

Hanna Webster has been club president since she brought the club back into
operation in the fall of 2014. She was inspired to take charge of the club after
participating in a workshop on building character. She also enjoys photography,
spoken word poetry, and all aspects of music.

When/ Where are meetings?
Meetings are at 4 p.m. on Tuesdays in Bond Hall 114. Feel free to send an email
with any questions.

9. What acts of kindness do you do?

Our acts of kindness range from anything big to small. We collaborate with clubs
such as the Brave Club to aid their efforts on campus. Each month has a theme as a
concentration and we fulfill that theme through little notes of kindness, passing out
candy, complimenting people and encouraging others to do the same.

Are there costs involved?
You can absolutely come to every meeting and event without having to spend
any money. Kindness if free! Your time and effort in coming to meetings and events is
all we ask for. That being said, if youd like to help out or make a donation of paper,
candy, snacks, etc. that kind of thing is always welcomed.


Pitch Letter:
Dear Nick Belcaster and Kara Spencer,
Whether shes writing poems about gun violence or planning the next act of kindness,
Hanna Webster gives a damn.
A Western sophomore, Webster brought the Acts of Kindness Club (AOK) back into
activity last fall. Her goals are simple: To make people aware of how they interact with
each other and to encourage kindness in our community.
It is a positive, loveable message, but it is difficult to see the impact it has with few
people showing up to meetings and little response from the community. Webster is
firm and continues to believe in the importance of having this club on campus.
Webster is important to the readers of the front for this reason: Since 2000 empathy
among college students has gone down 40 percent, according to Pew Research
Center, and she wants to change that.
Its the little things that matter. A hug, a big smile, to friendly compliment; these things
can change a persons day and Webster is the one heading up the movement.
Webster writes slam poetry. One of her inspirations comes from the poem,
Friend Zone
by Dylan Garity.
The poem is about the expectations connected with relationships. It criticizes the idea
that human beings are incapable of doing good if they are getting nothing in return.
Websters dedication to leading the student body in performing random acts of
kindness throughout campus traces back to high school.
A teacher named David Hanlon lead a character development class where students
were encouraged to search out ways to help themselves and others grow as strong,
aware and positive individuals.
Webster said Hanlons positivity and enthusiasm got her invested in the course which
lead her to pursue the AOK Club when she came to campus.

Webster can see that students are not getting the support they need to get through the
stressful rigors of life on campus. The members of the AOK Club want to change that.
Hanna Webster can be contacted at:
The club Facebook
page is titled, WWU Acts of Kindness Club. David Hanlon would be an excellent
source to describe Webster as a high school student. Anna Rhoades is vice president
of the club and would also make a great interview. Feel free to contact me for more

Erik Swanson
(360) 441 - 4812

Club Logo:



Acts of Kindness Club-- Doing little things to make a big difference

The club works in partnership with a homeless outreach in Bellingham. It would be
compelling to show the clubs working together.
Also works in partnership for suicide prevention w/ BRAVE
Beginning Pass The Note Campaign: A campaign to pass a laminated, generic note
around campus and allow students to share with a hashtag and then pass it to someone