Three years ago, a Las Vegas family suffered an unthinkable tragedy: the death of their 12-year-old son, Josh Stevens, in a senseless accident. Josh is remembered, above all else, for his kindness. His father Drew says he was the type of kid who was always searching for a way to brighten someone’s day.
While many families might choose to quietly mourn such a loss, the Stevens family decided to celebrate Josh’s kindness with a foundation. They started the The Josh Stevens Foundation in the spirit of “’catching’ kids in the act of being genuinely kind.” We caught up with Drew Stevens on the foundation’s latest efforts:
How did the Josh Stevens Foundation come to be?
On Sept. 5, 2008, our family suffered the unimaginable. Our son Joshua was killed in an accident in Anthem Country Club – a golf cart accident I hold myself responsible for. My wife and I could not imagine Josh’s kind heart not continuing to shine and make a difference in this world. We wanted to honor our son and our family by doing something good in this world in his name. My wife Barbara came up with a little card that reads “You’ve Been Caught Being Kind,” which includes a silicon bracelet wrapped around it that say’s “Be Kind…It’s the New Cool.” We wanted to recognize and reward a child who performed an act of kindness that reminded us of something Josh would have done.
What are some of the kind things Josh did to earn him this reputation?
Josh’s everyday acts of genuine kindness were simple: holding a door for someone, offering his lunch to a child that forgot theirs, helping an elderly person carry their grocery bags to their car, bussing someone’s dishes who didn’t take the time to do it themselves. Collectively, they earned him the honorable legacy of kindness we continue to celebrate today with the foundation.
Is the message from the Josh Stevens Foundation based on an anti-bullying campaign?
Bullying in schools has always existed and, sadly, some form of it will continue for as long as humans occupy this planet. Bullying today has evolved into something catastrophic. With all the social media outlets, a child in the crosshairs of a heartless bully has little way to escape it. The difference between the message of the Josh Stevens Foundation and anti-bullying campaigns that focus on what NOT to do is that our message is a positive one. It encourages students to create a climate of kindness.
I believe what is beginning to happen in the Las Vegas Valley is nothing short of a social movement. More than one in four schools in the Clark County School District (the fourth largest in the nation) have embraced our message. Seeing half of your entire school wearing the message “Be Kind” on a daily basis acts as a reminder of the importance in treating others the way you wish to be treated.
Is the Foundation living up to its own résumé? What are you doing to be kind?
Because Josh’s birthday was on the 5th of October, the Foundation Board and volunteers chose this day each month to reach into our community and do something kind. We have supported grieving families, donated to shelters, fed the homeless and paid off “lay away” purchases identified as children’s Christmas gifts for families in need. My wife and I believe that what makes us fulfilled these days is serving others.
How many folks have heard your message, and how many “Kindness Cards” have been distributed?In the last two and a half years, we have printed more than 65,000 “Be Kind” shirts, we have distributed more than 50,000 Kindness Cards and had more than 75,000 “Be Kind” bracelets made. Our ultimate vision is to inspire more kids to be more kind more often. While we’re at it, why not encourage adults too?