BY MARTA HEPLER DRAHOS firstname.lastname@example.org
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Meaghan Jameson was brought up to do nice things for people, whether it’s picking up the drive-thru tab for the car behind her or paying for the parking ticket on another car’s windshield.
So when she decided to quit her job as an events manager to ponder another career, she figured it was the perfect time to answer the call of the open road and to use the opportunity to practice random acts of kindness wherever she went.
She and boyfriend Dan Kenny will embark on a two-month “RAK Road Trip” next week in Jameson’s Honda CR-V. The cross-country adventure will take them through 10 states, from Midwest to west to southeast, where they’ll camp out with friends or at state and national parks and sightsee at places like the Grand Canyon.
Along the way, they’ll get to know people in the communities where they stop and offer a “pick-me-up” to as many as they can — using funds raised from family, friends and complete strangers.
“I wanted to do things like travel and see places before I came back and looked for another job,” said Jameson, 23, who envisions making both small and large gestures, from paying for dance lessons or a child’s daycare for the day to buying books for a school library or contributing money to a dog’s surgery. “This is an unselfish way of doing that.”
The couple has raised $2,320 since August, with the promise of more. Some donations are open-ended. Others are designated for a specific cause, such as helping dancers or animals.
“Somebody asked us to give breakfast to a farmer,” said Jameson, who created cards reading, “You’ve been RKD’d” to leave for unsuspecting recipients of the good deeds. “He used to work on a farm when he was young.”
Jameson said every penny of the money raised will be used for random acts of kindness and will accounted for through computer spreadsheets. The couple plan to live frugally and have earmarked $5,000 of their own savings for travel expenses.
Donors and others can follow the couple’s adventures through Jameson’s personal blog, www.blondegoesbrr.blogspot.com. She said she plans to update the blog at least three times a week with photos and stories of the couple’s travels and the random acts of kindness they commit.
Former employer Allison Beers and her husband, Adam, matched the first $250 Jameson raised through email, Facebook, Blogspot, Twitter and the crowdfunding site GoFundMe.
“It says a lot about her integrity and work ethic that I care so much about her and believe in what she’s doing,” said Beers, owner of Events North, where Jameson worked until the end of October with clients including the Father Fred Foundation. “She’s giving her all because she wants and cares enough to do this. It’s her work with nonprofits that made her think, ‘I have a gift that I can give to others.’”
Anne Varga is donating a little of every paycheck from her job as a public relations and marketing assistant at Northwestern Michigan College.
“The minute she alluded to this idea I was completely on board,” said Varga, who met Jameson through area networking channels shortly after both moved to northern Michigan. “This has been a lifelong dream of mine. If I don’t have the means or ways now to do it, I’ll live vicariously through her.”
Varga, a social media champion, said she’s particularly happy to help because Jameson is using the platform to fund and spread awareness of the project.
“Word of mouth helps, but more and more we rely on electronic means to push a message,” Varga said.
The couple say they’ll begin their RAK Road Trip close to home by working with Allen-Kent Photography to fund a senior class portrait and with KidzArt to create cards of encouragement for Munson Medical Center patients. They say paying it forward doesn’t necessarily have to involve money.
“I like to pick people who are doing things for someone else,” said Kenny, 26, a wedding DJ whose work slows down in winter. “My mom said, ‘Find a family like mine, a woman with five kids. Go up to her at the grocery and tell her she’s doing a good job. It means a lot.’”
The couple plan to wind up their trip in New Port Richey, Fla., in time for the Jameson family’s Dec. 23 “Christmas Eve Eve” party. They’re keeping the rest of their schedule, including a possible “wild card” foray to Mexico, as loose as possible.
“That’s the fun of it,” said Kenny, who has lived in Spain and taken road trips in Europe. “It’s not knowing what’s going to be around the bend or over the hill. And getting to know people. You develop yourself when you go around and see people and learn about the way they live and the places they live.”
To donate to the trip, go to www.GoFundMe.com/RAKRoadtrip. To follow along, visit www.blondegoesbrrr.blogspot.com.