TRAVERSE CITY — A Traverse City couple is ready to head home after racking up more than 9,500 miles and 42 good deeds during a two-month “Random Acts of Kindness Road Trip.”
So far the cross-country trip has taken Meaghan Jameson, 24, and her boyfriend Dan Kenny, 26, through 17 states, where they volunteered with local organizations and sought out people to help with money raised on a crowdfunding site.
By Monday they’d spent $4,944.56 of the $6,165 raised on GoFundMe for “random acts of kindness,” according to their website, www.rakroadtrip.com.
The couple was in Miami and planned to perform good deeds there before heading back to Traverse City by way of the east coast.
“We’re doing books and board games for a youth group in Miami and we have a couple things planned for a couple military groups on the way home,” Jameson said. “We maybe have money to do 10 to 15 more. We have no real strict timeline, but we’ll probably be home by the end of the month.”
The couple kicked off the trip Nov. 5 in their hometown by giving blood and delivering flowers and handmade cards to patients at Munson Medical Center. They said the adventure was a way to see the country while spreading cheer in the communities where they stopped.
Among their donations: $150 for flood relief in Colorado, gift cards for groceries and theme park admission for three single moms and their kids in Florida, and books and clothing for sisters being raised by their grandparents on Social Security income in Idaho.
In Kansas, the couple donated ID badges, jackets, toys and treats for four rescue dogs who provide therapy for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. One of the dogs lost a leg and a second foot when the children of its original owner dangled it over a fence for another dog to attack.
And in Illinois, the couple donated supplies and $600 to students of an inner-city charter school for boys. So far the money has been used for art supplies for a student who lives in foster care with his 12 siblings and for two months of behavioral medications for a student whose mother can’t afford it on her department store salary.
“It’s been a huge relief knowing there’s this small arsenal of funds for kids that I know didn’t have a hat or gloves or food money for the week,” said Elizabeth Hart, special education department chairman at Urban Prep Academy. “Teaching in a very, very high-poverty and dangerous neighborhood in Chicago, it’s a constant feeling of helplessness of not being able to meet physical needs and not having disposable income for emergency needs.”
Hart, whose parents have a second home in Interlochen, said 20 percent of her income typically goes back to her students in the form of bus fare and other needs.
“A majority of my kids are assaulted on their way to and home from school,” she said.
Besides donating gifts, Jameson and Kenny also volunteered their services at places like a Washington state food pantry and a Florida teaching farm for female offenders and young people at risk.
Jameson said the trip had a trickle-down effect. A woman who received a “night out” gift card by mistake offered to deliver it to the intended recipients: a couple caring for their son stricken with an unidentified autoinflammatory disease. Others offered donations, contacts or places to stay.
One North Carolina couple was inspired to take their own mini-RAK Roadtrip through the state during Thanksgiving weekend.
“We met a lot of selfless people and it reinforced that people are doing the same things in their communities that we’re doing, in their own style. It’s been very uplifting,” Jameson said.
One of the Traverse City couple’s most poignant experiences was delivering a bag of dog food and a department store gift card to a woman whose house caught on fire after she fell asleep with dinner on the stove.
“She was estranged from her family so she didn’t really have anyone,” Jameson said. “She hugged us each for a long time. That was really hard. We cried for a bit after that one.”