COVENTRY TWP. Madilynn Stephens wants to change the world one act of kindness at a time.
Stephens, who is 9-years-old, will be a fourth-grader this year at Coventry Elementary School and is the president and founder of PLX Angels in the Lakes. She has some help with the group from her mother, Elizabeth Thrall.
Thrall said her daughter is very passionate about helping others and even when the adults working on projects would start to let a project fizzle out, Stephens stepped in and didn’t let it go.
Stephens has big plans including publishing a book with acts of kindness in it. The idea originated when she saw a story on the news about Dan James Richard, a 16-year-old from Peru, Iowa, who took his own life.
In Richards’ obituary, the family wrote: "in lieu of flowers, we ask that everyone be kind to each other.”
This message spoke to Stephens.
“The only type of flowers that can destroy hate are kindness flowers,” Stephens said.
She is encouraging everyone to email acts of kindness to her at email@example.com to be included in the book.
Back to school shop
One big project Stephens and her mother have been working on is a back to school shop for students who cannot afford items as they prepare to go back to school.
This year will be the second year for the back to school shop, which will be open from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, appointment only, by texting 330-459-6263. Also, the shop will be open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday with no appointment needed. The shop is at The Movement Church, 3333 Manchester Road, and is free and open to anyone.
To help fundraise, a comedy show was held at Coventry High School 6 p.m. Aug. 3. The show featured the live taping of Renee Luczynski for America’s Got Talent.
Thrall said she will be working with Coventry Superintendent Lisa Blough to make sure all students in the district are taken care of. Once school begins, teachers will also be able to be in contact with Thrall if they have students in their classroom who need something.
Those who want to help can also sponsor a student who needs supplies or an athlete who cannot afford the needed items to patriciate in a sport. Sponsorships are offered in increments of $25 and go up to $150 for athletic sponsorship or $200 for a student sponsorship. For a student sponsorship, it will help with clothes, shoes, a backpack and supplies. For athletes, it will help cover pay-to-play fees and equipment costs.
While those who sponsor someone won’t know the name of the student they sponsored, Thrall said they will be sent a team photo, updates on the team and two free tickets to any home game for that sport if it is an athletic sponsorship. Those who sponsor a student will receive updates on the class they are in.
The back to school shop is not only for Coventry students as Manchester and Green students in need are welcome to visit, Thrall said. She said the only thing they ask is that students show some proof of the district they are in. Proof could be a report card from last year or any letter from the school.
The shop is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. It is expected to have additional hours and days as back to school gets closer.
“We want to make sure all kids have the same opportunity,” Thrall said.
Donations for the back to school shop can also be dropped off at the Thirsty Gator Drive-Thru, 3727 Manchester Road.
Other community projects
In addition to the back to school shop, Stephens has several other projects she is working on.
Last year, Stephens came up with the idea of having a hygiene locker at Coventry High School. The purpose is to provide items students may not have at home and to offer the items for someone if they forgot their own for gym class or a sporting practice. Last year, the hygiene locker was on the third floor of the school, which wasn't convenient for those in the locker rooms downstairs.
This year, there will be two hygiene lockers, one in each of the boys and girls locker rooms.
Stephen also applied for a grant through Build-A-Bear, which was accepted and is expected to receive somewhere between 175 and 250 Build-A-Bears. She intends to give them away to kids in need and also send some of them to Iowa for Richard’s family.
Stephen said through her projects she wants to help as many children as possible.
Another project she is working on is the self-esteem project at the middle school. The hope is to educate students on why students are bullied and how to deal with bullying if it happens.
She is also planning a Christmas catalog, which will be a project to help students pick out something for their parents if they don’t have money to spend at the Santa Shop schools put on around Christmas.
“We are willing to work with anybody and any organization,” Thrall said. “Sometimes people don’t know what help is out there.”
A future project Stephens hopes to someday work on is creating a lost and found for pets.
Thrall said PLX Angels in the Lakes has had a lot of support.
“The community has been absolutely wonderful,” Thrall said.
She said she couldn't be more proud of Stephens and said she is such a hard-working driven kid.
PLX Angels in the Lakes is a 501c3 non-profit and every donation is tax-deductible. The group is also looking for volunteers.
More information about PLX Angels in the Lakes can be found on their Facebook page facebook.com/PortageLakesnonprofit and anyone can contact them through their Facebook page. The group is planning to launch a website eventually.