Last Monday morning, hundreds of students walking through the Tinkham Veale University Center may have crossed paths with a table full of buttons. Organized like a mini pop-up stall, passers-by were given the opportunity to make DIY buttons out of various stickers and colored paper in about as little time as it would take to place and pickup an order at Melt U. During a portion of the week notorious for low energy levels, the button making process motivated students and brought smiles to their faces.
The pop-up booth was sponsored by Acts of Random Kindness (ARK), a Case Western Reserve University student organization founded by a group of students who wanted to promote a culture of kindness around campus about six years ago. Due to its strong leadership, ARK was awarded the “Outstanding New Student Organization of the Year” upon its foundation in the 2012-13 academic year.
“Motivational Monday,” a custom which the pop-up booth was representative of, is meant to provide random kindness and to make people smile by giving out free custom made buttons. The rotating staff provided stickers, motivational quotes and pins so that all who passed the booth were equipped to make customized buttons.
As ARK President and third-year student Nicole Baumgartner stated, “Although there are national organizations that have similar goals, ARK is a club started by CWRU students for the CWRU community. Since its foundation, we have strived to find new ways, big and small, to spread kindness across campus.”
Typically, ARK has around five events per semester. At the end of each term, the general body votes for which events will take place during the following semester. This fall, the group will reprise some of its most popular events, including the Throwback Picnic and World Kindness Day, as well as some new ones, like the Finals Cafe.
The group’s Sept. 14 kickoff event, the Throwback Picnic, featured ARK on the quad passing out classic childhood favorite foods. From walking tacos, a bag of chips filled with taco toppings, to Gushers and Capri Suns, the options certainly did not disappoint hungry students. According to Baumgartner, this event has always been a club favourite because, “one gets to see how excited people get when we offer them snacks they have not had in years. Students and staff always tell us how we have brightened their days and how appreciative they are of this event.”
This is the second year ARK has held Motivational Monday. Both years, the event was purposefully staged around midterms. The first round of exams is a particularly stressful time for CWRU students, and by allowing people to grab a button—or to design one’s own—that can be placed onto backpacks or sweatshirts, makes people smile and offers a quick mental break. After all, ARK’s mission centers around relaxing by embracing creativity. If you ask anyone in the group, there is no such thing as a small act of kindness.
Although distributing DIY buttons may seem like a small act of kindness, ARK believes large acts are hardly necessary to brighten someone’s day.
Feedback from students who passed the table in Tink was largely positive too. Maria Hill, a visitor to the booth, shared her thoughts on the gesture of kindness.
“I was walking past the table towards class when I saw this parade of stickers,” she said. “I was in a really grumpy, Monday mood, but I got a cat button and it made me feel better and more optimistic about the day.”
ARK has six executive body members who bring their own perspective as to what it means to show kindness to others, leading to more creative and team-orientated events. Their weekly Tuesday meetings in the Thwing Center are even open to the general public, so every voice is included in all their decisions.
As Baumgartner explained, “We want [the public’s] ideas on what events we should do and when because we want to be in tune with what would best benefit the campus. The beauty of ARK is that each member can contribute as much as they are able, and because of that, we have an organization where everyone can share their opinions and integrate their ideas into what we do.”
ARK is looking forward to hosting more events this semester, including the biggest event of the year, World Kindness Day, coming up on Nov. 16. The organization has invited clubs across CWRU to find their own unique ways of spreading kindness on World Kindness Day. ARK will pass out donuts on the Binary Walkway as students walk to class.
Various clubs that will collaborate with ARK for the event are the Undergraduate Student Government, the University Program Board and the National Alliance on Mental Illness. This event will occur throughout campus so that all students can participate and benefit from this event.