By Eileen Jevis
On Jan. 4, 2017, the lives of Kelly Quinn Shetsky and her husband Mark Shetsky were forever changed when their 3-year-old daughter Regan was killed when she was struck by a car in the parking lot of her Syracuse nursery school. Mark Shetsky, who is a Syracuse firefighter, was also hit and suffered multiple injuries. To keep Regan’s memory alive, the couple turned their grief into action and established a charity called Regan’s Acts of Kindness. The mission of the nonprofit organization is to inspire people to practice and spread kindness. It places particular emphasis on bringing children joy and teaching them to “play” it forward with gestures of empathy, gratitude and love.
Kelly Shetsky said a friend suggested the concept of starting the organization and the idea took flight. “Regan was such a joyful child. She brightened the world around her and this charity gives us the opportunity to continue her joy and kindness,” she said.
Christmas ornament drive
Each year the Shetskys organize Regan’s Ornament Drive — a program that gives Christmas ornaments to babies born at St. Joseph’s Health Hospital and young patients at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital, Joslin Diabetes and Upstate Cancer Center. Children at McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Center, Elmcrest Children’s Center and Ronald McDonald House also receive ornaments. The drive runs through November. People are asked to purchase a child-themed ornament or a First Christmas– themed ornament and drop it off at the locations listed. Those who would like to purchase ornaments can also do so via Amazon at https://tinyurl.com/RegansOrnamentDrive2023/.
A book drive also takes place each year. Children’s books are collected through the month of February and donated to the above-mentioned organizations in March, the month that Regan was born. Each baby born in March at St. Joseph’s Health Hospital also receives a “welcome to the world”–type book. Contact the family at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on how to purchase books from the Amazon wish list.
Spreading kindness around the world
Another opportunity to spread kindness is to paint a rock and leave it in a public space where people will find it. The Regan’s Kindness Rocks initiative is a way for people to get involved and spread smiles in a simple way, explained Shetsky. Rocks have been found all over the world including Asia, Europe, the Caribbean and Canada. ”There was even one found at the Vatican in Rome,” said Shetsky. She encourages everyone to simply paint a rock (acrylic paint or paint markers work best) and write on the back, “Please post on Facebook at Regan’s Acts of Kindness.” Shetsky said it’s also a good idea to spray the front with a clear glossy spray to protect it from the elements.
Vision for the future
With the seventh anniversary of Regan’s death approaching, the Shetskys continue to memorialize their daughter. They are planning on building an interactive literacy garden called Regan’s Reading Garden. “We want it to be an imaginative play space centered around classic children’s stories such as ‘Peter Rabbit’ and ‘Where the Wild Things Are,’” explained Shetsky. The couple have been raising money for a few years and are now looking for a location to build the garden. They are hopeful that the Town of DeWitt, which showed an interest a few years ago, will still consider donating the land as talks continue. They are open to all ideas and encourage people to contact them at email@example.com to learn more.
The Shetskys are thankful for the loving support and prayers they received from their parish that continues to this day. “From the moments the staff, faculty and parishioners of Holy Cross were told what happened, they rallied around us. They held us up in our worst moments. We couldn’t ask for a more amazing school and church community. They’ve become our extended family.”
The Shetskys are grateful that Regan continues to have an impact on the world and find comfort in the work they are doing for others. “She may not be here anymore, but her infectious, happy spirit is. It means so much to us that people still say her name.” Shetsky said that oftentimes, when someone passes away, people are afraid to talk about them so as not to upset loved ones. “However, the opposite is true — it’s tragic when a bereaved parent thinks people have forgotten their child,” she said. “The fact that our angel is still impacting so many people is something we are deeply grateful for.”