News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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December 28, 2013

SPPRAK has big plans for 2014

Organization hoping to build on success of last year

TERRE HAUTE — 2013 has been kind to one Terre Haute-based non-profit organization and plans are underway for 2014 events that founders hope will eventually make Terre Haute the “City of Kindness.”

Saturday morning, Kim Grubb, Robin Heng and Susan Short, the three women who started SPPRAK (Special People Performing Random Acts of Kindness) in 2009, discussed the highlights of the past year and their exciting plans for the new year during a meeting at a local coffee shop in Terre Haute.

The organization that encourages random acts of kindness to improve the community had successes in 2013 including the launch and growth of a campaign spreading kindness in schools — which was covered by a national top-ranking news show — and a fundraiser for a tornado-ravaged community.

But next year, the founders are looking forward to more events.

With all “this negativity, the world definitely needs more kindness,” Grubb said.

‘City of Kindness’

In February, the group will host several events in partnership with the City of Terre Haute, local non-profits and area businesses, to promote kindness.

This is in conjunction with the national “Random Acts of Kindness Week,” which will be celebrated the week of Feb. 16, 2014.

“We want to do this every February,” with 2014 as the inaugural year, Heng said of the special month of events. “We want this to grow to where Terre Haute becomes the ‘City of Kindness.’”

One of the events that month will be an art exhibit at Arts Illiana called “What does kindness look like?” Another planned event is a “Choose your Charity” event where people can learn about local non-profits and how to help.

The SPPRAK team also plans to film a video at the Ohio Building on Feb. 8 featuring “people of all walks of life,” Heng said. They plan to invite the public to make a video and to answer the question “What does kindness look like to you?” The video will be on the web during the month of February.

The founders said they are currently in search of a celebrity with ties to Terre Haute willing to help them promote the events. They are also looking for donated space where they hope to put an office. Having an office is one of the goals in 2014, Grubb said.

A “SPPRAK Committee,” made up of local officials including Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett and Duke Energy’s Rick Burger, was formed to help plan these events, Heng said.

And the SPPRAK Pack program, which has promoted random acts of kindness in schools this year, is spreading to a business in 2014.

Grubb said the program will be implemented at Terre Haute Regional Hospital during the first part of the year.

Spreading Kindness

While the SPPRAK team can look forward to an exciting new year, it can also look back to a 2013 filled with success, one of which was the completion of the SPPRAK trademark on Dec. 24.

But the year started off with the launch of the “SPPRAK Pack” campaign in Vigo County schools in February. It was a widely accepted program that uses simple items — a large banner and sticky notes — to promote random acts of kindness by students, teachers and staff.

In May, this campaign recognizing individuals’ good deeds received national attention when NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams aired a story taped at Lost Creek Elementary School and Terre Haute North Vigo High School on April 29.

Founders said they plan to continue the program next year, in their words, continue “SPPRAKing” at schools.

And this simple idea of promoting kindness has caught on nationally.

Grubb proudly said that SPPRAK Pack has reached 13 states. Some schools in California, Florida, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Oklahoma, Illinois, Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina, Maryland, Delaware and Indiana, of course, have implemented the SPPRAK Pack program.

The founders are proud of the program’s growth.

“A little surprising,” said Short, “because it’s such a simple idea,” and she thought somebody else would have come up with it before.

“And it started here in Terre Haute,” she added proudly.

The idea originated from a renewed determination to promote kindness in schools after a particularly deadly tragedy.

After hearing about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Heng said there was a group of boys at her home that were “afraid to go back to school” so the founders asked themselves, “How can we turn that around?” and find a way to make a positive difference.

“That’s how the initiative at the schools started,” Heng said.

And later in the year, the founders once again sought to shed a positive light on another tragedy, this time, weather-related.

In July, the SPPRAK team spearheaded an effort to raise funds for people who were affected by the devastating tornado that ravaged Moore, Okla., in May.

“We wondered how those kids were going to go back to school,” Heng said, so the team tried to look for something positive to focus on.

The funds raised along with SPPRAK Pack banners were personally delivered in September by the team to Moore, Okla., where they visited 32 schools.

The founders credit the people of Terre Haute and the Wabash Valley for making the event successful.

‘We SPPRAK’

And the founders plan to put more time into SPPRAK in 2014. “We are restructuring our lives to put more time into this,” Heng said.

Some people have sports, others have music, but they have SPPRAK.

“It’s a hobby. We SPPRAK,” she said.

Grubb, in particular, reduced work hours to focus on SPPRAK.

“I believe this needs the attention,” Grubb said. “I want to see this ... grow.”

“I had an opportunity in my life to do that,” she said.

And working on SPPRAK has brought kindness back to their lives.

The founders said they have received kindness in the form of the community’s support of the events, including financial support.

And the founders, who try to be kind in their words and deeds, have also experienced changes in the way they react to situations since taking on the charge of spreading kindness.  

“It definitely changes how you do things in life,” Short said.

Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or dianne.powell@tribstar.com.

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