Students heed Shetskys’ message and show their generosity
By Tom Maguire
SYRACUSE — The Regan’s Acts of Kindness movement has picked up sound effects: the jingling of kindness coins at Blessed Sacrament School.
The coins say, “You made me smile. Thank you for your kindness. You took the time to show you care.”
Regan’s Acts of Kindness is led by Kelly and Mark Shetsky in memory of their three-year-old daughter, Regan, who was killed in January 2017 when she was hit by a car in the parking lot of her nursery school.
Those who live in the spirit of Regan jump in automatically with kindnesses. Last Monday, Blessed Sacrament Principal Andrea Polcaro had her hands full as she prepared for a Catholic Schools Week prayer service and assembly.
The principal’s burden included a big basket of kindness coins. Fifth-grader Frank Von Hassel came up to her and said, “Mrs. Polcaro, can I carry that for you?”
For his gracious action, Frank enjoyed a starring role at the assembly as the first recipient of a kindness coin.
“Frank made me smile, and I felt happy because he did something kind,” Polcaro told the assembly. She had already been impressed with Frank, in part because he lives in Chenango County and travels two hours to school every day. His mom wrote about the daily trek on the school’s Facebook page, the principal said. “Her values, you can see them instilled in Frank,” she said.
She added: “Frank is one of the kindest boys ever, … just a very kind, kind, kind soul. … and polite. He understands what it means to go to a Catholic school.”
“It was very thoughtful of Frank to notice his principal needed help and provide that help,” Kelly Shetsky said. “Nowadays so many people seem self-involved and it’s heartwarming to see people doing nice things for each other.”
“It’s a random act of kindness,” Frank said.
Also that day, the whole school made bagged lunches for the Rescue Mission. Such kindnesses in Regan’s name have been reported around the state and also in Massachusetts, Texas, and Florida. One specialty is kindness rocks with colorful paintings; Bishop Grimes Junior/Senior High School and Christian Brothers Academy have joined that effort.
The word gets around because of Facebook.com/regansactsofkindness and Youcaring.com/reganshetsky, where people can make donations to Regan’s memorial fund; the donations fund kindness projects that the Shetskys undertake.
The kindness movement started last year on Regan’s birthday, March 3. “We’re very action-oriented people,” Mark said. People do nice things and then leave cards printed off the websites. The cards say, “Please enjoy this act of kindness in loving memory of Regan Elizabeth Shetsky.” One card, passed along, can reap many kindnesses.
“I thought some people might do a few nice things, and it’s just really taken off,” Kelly said, “and we’re hearing of schools and companies and families who are taking it upon themselves just to do acts of kindness.”
For example, people will go to Aldi and leave a kindness card and a stack of quarters so that others can get a free shopping cart. At Walt Disney World, people buy restaurant gift certificates in Regan’s name and then give them out. People go on cruises and leave “Regan rocks.” “A rock was found in Mexico and one in Costa Rica,” Kelly said, “and one was found in Australia; it’s just crazy. Yeah, it’s amazing. It’s very heartwarming.”
The Shetskys are working to make the Regan memorial fund an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Their joy-spreading “cool projects” so far have included new playground equipment at Holy Cross School, where the Shetskys’ son, Gavin, is a second grader; an outdoor movie night at Le Moyne College, including games and bubbles; planting a small memorial garden in Syracuse’s Sedgwick neighborhood (every plant is pink, Regan’s favorite color); a display at the Wild Animal Park in Chittenango; Christmas ornaments for children; and even a blanket with a Regan card for a baby girl at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital.
“We’re hoping to do a large-scale project soon: some sort of interactive garden project for children with benches,” Kelly said.
Now that fifth-grader Frank has earned Blessed Sacrament’s first kindness coin, someone wondered what his next gracious move would be.
“Help my parents,” he said.
“Not back-talk to them.”