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Brantford group promotes inclusion and acceptance through kindness

Community ProfileBrantford group promotes inclusion and acceptance through kindness

Friends 4 Kindness, an organization in Brantford, is doing everything they can to spread kindness at a local and national level.

Nicole Callander started the group in 2018 when she went viral on social media asking for birthday cards for her daughter Kaitlin, who lives with Williams Syndrome.

“Kaitlin was in grade 12 but because she has Williams Syndrome she was staying in school until she turned 21,” Callander said. “She was upset because she wasn’t getting graduation, prom and all of the other milestones the other kids were getting, and she thought it was because she had no friends.”

Callander decided to ask friends and family on social media to mail her birthday cards to make her feel special. The project received attention from all over the world, with more than 6000 cards coming from across Canada, Europe and the United States.

“I started a Facebook group called Kindness for Kaitlin so that people could see her opening her cards,” she said. “I started to get messages from parents saying that their kids have felt similar to Kaitlin.”

Friends 4 Kindness founder Nicole Callander started the group in 2018 to spread kindness to other kids and adults that struggle with social connection. Photo courtesy Nicole Callander.

To spread the love to others, Callander decided to host the first ever Unbirthday Party at Mohawk Park. The party was designed to celebrate everybody, especially those that have never been invited to a birthday party.

“Around 200 people, from as far as Ottawa and the United States, came to celebrate with us and it was a huge success. That party ended up going viral too and I got messages from people asking us to host one in their state or province.”

Recognizing the need for support, Callander decided to form Friends 4 Kindness.

The next year, they hosted six parties across Ontario, celebrating adults and children who struggle with social connection. With COVID-19 slowing down gatherings, the group continued their outreach in different ways.

“Through the pandemic we started an online buddy program, where high school student facilitated three different groups of elementary students, high school students and teens, and adults,” she said. “It’s been a huge hit and we will probably continue the program as long as we can.”

The group also compiled a list of members birthdays so that they can receive a number of cards to make their day special.

“We have more than 100 card volunteers that write and send cards to our friends. They get emailed the birthday lists two months before the date so that they have time to personalize them. They’re getting all kinds of birthday mail and are getting the same excitement that Kaitlin got.”

The Friends 4 Kindness Facebook group has more than 2,500 members and is continuing to grow. The goal of the group remains the same, make everyone feel included, accepted and loved.

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