Past tragedy rallies kindness in community

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Pam Smith says a hero is "somebody who inspires you, somebody who you look up to and somebody you try to be like." Photo by Nikolai Karpinski, Hidden Heroes: Faces of Quinte.

BELLEVILLE – Turning a personal tragedy into something meaningful for others takes a special kind of heroism.

Pam Smith started Violence Awareness and Random Acts of Kindness with her sister, Christine Macdonald, in memory of Smith's nephew and Macdonald's son, Mark Fyke, whose life was taken by an act of violence.

This year the kindness ribbon is the colour blue for Mark Fyke's favourite sports teams, the Blue Jays and the Maple Leafs. Photo by Nikolai Karpinski, Hidden Heroes: Faces of Quinte

Fyke was on a school trip in Florida during March, 1996 when he was shot and killed. During a memorial service for Mark at Nicholson Catholic College, a parent suggested honouring the loss with a week dedicated to recognizing acts of kindness in the community.

"He was thoughtful, he was generous, he was kind. It's really easy to do acts of kindness with him in mind," says Smith about her nephew.

Between March 6 and March 12 the group celebrates acts of kindness through 15 high schools and 62 elementary schools in the area.

Smith says the group started out small in 1997 and has grown over the years. "It started out grassroots, very small, three high schools, that was the first year. Then it went from the high schools to the elementary schools to the greater community."

The group also sends out kindness crews to the Bay of Quinte and adjacent regions where they engage the community through planned events and impromptu acts.

"I can remember one day there was a really bad snowstorm and this older gentleman was out shovelling the snow, so we got out of the van to assist him. When we got out of the van he asked 'what's this all about?' I told him, and he said 'I thought I was getting swarmed,' and I said 'well you're getting swarmed with kindness.' Then he tried to pay us and we said 'no, just pass the kindness along to someone else.'" Smith says about one day when her kindness crew was out in the Prince Edward–Hastings Region.

Smith is a retired government employee. She was a case worker for the Ontario Disability Support Program in Belleville and Cobourg for 23 years. Now she does seasonal work for the Christmas Sharing Program.

Belleville raised, Smith grew up in a family of 10. She says at least 15 other family members volunteer with the group.

"Well it was interesting, because you learn the meaning of sharing, whether you want to or not," says Smith about growing up in such a large family. "We're a fairly close-knit family, all things considered."

When asked what her favourite and least favourite things about Belleville were, Smith said:

"Well I think the best things about Belleville are the people and the fact that they care. It's a caring and compassionate community."  Smith also added, "I think we need to do more for homeless people, we don't have a homeless shelter here. I think we have people that could really benefit from that. Right now if you're homeless in Belleville you're either couch-surfing, living on the street or you're sent to Kingston or Peterborough."



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