Let’s Be Kind Month begins in Costa Mesa and Newport Beach
Kindness begins at home — a message that Costa Mesa High School junior Rebekah Robeck takes to heart and, now, has taken to the cities of Costa Mesa and Newport Beach.
At their last meetings, city council members in both cities approved and adopted proclamations designating April as “Let’s Be Kind Month” with hopes to encourage residents to recognize and celebrate kindness citywide.
“It’s a dream. Before, I had never imagined ‘Let’s Be Kind’ would grow this big. It was kind of a one and done for me, but my friends rallied behind it and said ‘We want Let’s Be Kind,’” said Rebekah, who began her campaign for kindness while in eighth grade at Costa Mesa Middle School.
Rebekah said she initially organized it because she said she used to be made fun of for inconsequential things when she was younger. When she realized she wasn’t the only one being taunted, she decided to organize Let’s Be Kind Day to stress the importance of treating others well.
Since then, Let’s Be Kind became a nonprofit and, now during her third year of high school, is holding its fourth annual celebration.
“Having two cities back it up like that is just amazing and I’m excited that even more people outside of school...know about Let’s Be Kind,” Rebekah said. “Kids tell their parents and parents tell their neighbors and their neighbors tell the community. It becomes a citywide thing and I’m really excited for people to experience it like that.”
Cristina Robeck, chief operating officer of Let’s Be Kind and Rebekah’s mother, said the organization had a preexisting relationship with the Costa Mesa City Council through former Mayor Katrina Foley, whose children went to Costa Mesa High School.
“We just asked her if she could introduce us to some donors and she did and from there came the proclamation. We were impacting so many schools in our city,” Robeck said. “We saw that it was going to impact the city as whole.”
“I think that it’s wonderful that we are focusing on kindness, especially at a time in our community when there are difficulties that people are going through,” Costa Mesa Mayor John Stephens said in an interview Thursday. “We need kindness and empathy now more than ever during the pandemic, but we’ll always need it.”
Newport Beach Councilman Will O'Neill said he heard about the organization through social media when he put out a call for recommendations of favorite charities that he could donate to in February. Let’s Be Kind was one of the organizations suggested.
“Spreading kindness in our schools is beautiful and worthy of our support,” O'Neill said. “I love that Rebekah Robeck not only thought to help, but is actively recruiting people to her positive cause.”
After he donated, he said he was reached out to by Cristina Robeck to see if there was any way that the city could adopt a proclamation like the one in Costa Mesa. From there, he reached out to Mayor Brad Avery, who was “on board immediately.”
“This was brought to us by [Rebekah] and I thought it was very timely, given some recent incidents in town where we had a man assaulted by some young, local kids and then, of course, the isolated but still disturbing distribution of Ku Klux Klan paraphernalia,” Avery said. “Then nationally, we have the serious issue of these attacks on Asian American and Pacific Islanders.”
“All these things, at least for me personally, have come together. So, I was really happy to see that [proclamation] come forward. That’s exactly what we really need to be communicating. We live in a very compressed world and we’re all under a little stress for all the reasons we know, so being kind to one another is really important at this moment,” Avery said.
“We do a lot of kind things in this town. We have people volunteering at OASIS [Senior Center], at Hoag [Memorial Hospital Presbyterian], childcare. Those [hateful] incidents don’t represent our community, but we have to speak out a little more against it.”
Robeck said that they’ve bought 6,500 T-shirts to give out this year, with about 5,200 of those to be distributed to teachers and students on campuses throughout the Newport-Mesa Unified School District and in other participating schools such as Mariners Christian School.
Rebekah said she felt it was important to keep the campaign going this year in spite of the ongoing pandemic because of the inclusivity it promises to students who, like her, felt isolated and alone while being educated via online school. She said it was important to her that she reached out to people and let them know through Let’s Be Kind that they had a community behind them.
This year’s T-shirt distribution efforts will be a little different in light of pandemic-related restrictions, but Rebekah said they will be given out at the elementary school level first later this month with high schoolers to see distribution efforts in September.
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