Close to 1,000 cars during midterms in the fall semester were gifted bags of candy with an encouraging note and a song title attached, meant to uplift the students who received them.
Each note was different, as was every song.
The student who did this bought all the candy herself, and with the help of her siblings, she created the notes to attach to the candy, which she would spend hours placing on cars around campus to brighten students’ days during one of the most stressful points in the semester.
She enjoyed the idea so much, she did it again for finals and this semester turned the effort into the Random Acts of Kindness Club.
This student was Monica Connor.
Connor took a health science class last semester called Current Health Issues with professor Kathleen Culpo, who is the faculty advisor for the club.
Connor put the candy bags on cars as a result of inspiration she got through research and work she did for a civic engagement project in Culpo’s class.
“She just truly saw a need and just wanted to be that positive impact,” Culpo said.
At the beginning of the class, Culpo presented various health issues and statistics.
One that Connor remembers was from the Castleton University Health Assessment, which stated over 50 percent of students at CU feel overwhelmed, hopeless and discouraged.
And as she started doing more research for her project, she found a study called “Crisis on campus: the untold story of student suicides,” and it said 1 in 12 students on college campuses are having suicidal thoughts each year.
This was shocking to Connor.
“I was like ‘oh my gosh, that means like every day we are walking by people, likely on our campus, that are maybe struggling with discouragement at least if nothing else,’” Connor said.
Vice President of the club, Mara Maralia, said she notices people beginning to struggle and seemingly give up as the semester goes on, which she believes is a result of stress and mental health.
“You start to realize as the months progress people are disappearing and classes are getting smaller,” Maralia said.
Maralia and Connor hope the Random Acts of Kindness Club will make people feel less alone and uplift them.
Random Acts of Kindness became an official club just a few weeks ago, but club members have been helping Connor with many activities since the beginning of the semester.
They started by giving out chocolates and flowers in the library on Valentine’s Day, telling people the club was coming. They also made cupcakes for St. Patrick’s Day, which they handed out, and put chocolate gold coins on car windshields.
They even hung Cliff Bars on gym equipment with words of encouragement for those working out on another occasion.
Their first activity as an official club happened just before spring break when they bought 85 mugs and filled them with goodies like hot chocolate and candy. They were placed on dorm door knobs in gift bags.
“Monica is just a fountain of ideas, she can’t get them out fast enough,” Maralia said.
Connor is also an expert at finding candy on sale, she added.
There are currently six members in the club and each is passionate about spreading kindness and positivity.
Club Secretary Kaitlin Wells said what she and other club members love is the ability to make an impact on someone’s day.
“You never know, someone could be having a terrible day and then you find something like that (the goodie filled mugs). Something small can turn your day around,” Wells said.
“I love bringing kindness around,” Treasurer Baylee Lawrence said. “We want to able to bring that positivity and make people feel happy and feel welcome here at Castleton.”
Jayson Mullen, a student who received one of the mugs said that it was a pleasant surprise to get one and thinks it’s great what they are doing.
“To see people doing that kind of thing and that people are going out of their way to make other people’s days brighter is nice,” Mullen said.
Student Frank Wan received two gifts on two different occasions. He got one of the flowers on Valentine’s Day and one of the mugs.
“I felt so surprised and thankful when I received those gifts. They literally brightened my day,” Wan said. “I did not have a good day when I got the mug and my mood turned very positive when I got the mug. I was thinking: if someone or something treats you bad, there will always be some unexpected surprise waiting for you and make your day feel like a new day.”
The club members hope to get more people involved because to them, it is extremely rewarding.
If you want to get involved, you can contact them through the Facebook page: Random Acts of Kindness Club at Castleton University.
“The more hands on deck we have, the more people we can reach out to,” Connor said.