August 16, 2019

An 11-year-old’s response to a mass shooting? Performing random acts of kindness

Here are three stories to inspire you as you head into the weekend.

Acts of kindness are helping communities across the country, from El Paso to Arkansas. Photo by Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Each week, The Renewal Project shares three stories from around the country that highlight the innovative solutions people are creating in their communities. This week, we have three stories that show how young people are making a difference in their neighborhoods. What are the innovative ideas in your hometown? Tell us at

Paying it forward with kindness: After the mass shooting in an El Paso Walmart that left 22 dead and many more injured, 11-year-old Ruben Martinez wanted to do something to honor the victims and help his community heal. So he launched a daily challenge to encourage people to perform random acts of kindness.

His mother, Rose Gandarilla, used social media to help spread the word. Gandarilla told CNN that her son had difficulties coping with what happened and was afraid to go into stores. She said that he shouldn’t give into the fear, but rather find a way to give back to those in need, thus the creation of “ElPasoChallenge.”

Ruben urged the community to give back with small acts, like mowing someone’s lawn, donating to families in need, and bringing flowers to someone in the hospital, to name a few. He’s challenging each resident of El Paso to do a deed for each person who was killed.

Gandarilla and her son hope these acts of kindness will make an impact on the world. “Hate will not define us,” she said.

Wishes come true: An 11-year-old Arkansas girl is granting small wishes for the residents of a local nursing home. Ruby Kate Chitsey grew up visiting nursing homes in Harrison, Arkansas, with her mother, a nurse practitioner. She always had a close relationship with the residents because of this, but as she grew older she realized many senior citizens couldn’t afford simple joys due to their fixed incomes. So she decided to do something about it, and asked residents to name the three things they wanted in the world. Instead of responding with expensive items like cars, they asked for chocolate bars, prayers, and other small comfort items.

Ruby and her family used their own money to grant 100 wishes in just three months. They turned to GoFundMe to raise funds, and quickly collected $5,000. After five months, they had raised $250,000 and were able to get more creative with their wish-granting. This year, Ruby created an official nonprofit called Three Wishes for Ruby’s Residents, where she continues to grant wishes and bring joy to the elderly.

Voices of a generation: Teen Vogue has built a reputation for featuring stories that go beyond the pop culture coverage of a typical magazine for teens, including stories on national politics and the issues that matter to young people. A recent article highlights some of the members of Gen Z who are making waves in their own right. The magazine created a list of seven young activists to watch ahead of the 2020 presidential elections. They include a 23-year-old who’s already run a political campaign, an 18-year-old gun-control advocate, and a 17-year-old social entrepreneur. Check out the full list here.

Danielle Moskowitz and Margaret Myers

The Renewal Project