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North senior spends birthday giving

Hopes acts of kindness catch on

POSTED: March 16, 2013 4:30 p.m.
For the Forsyth County News/

North Forsyth senior Savannah Chapman spent her 18th birthday doing random acts of kindness throughout the county.

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While most people look forward to receiving birthday gifts, a North Forsyth High School senior spent her special day giving them to others.

Savannah Chapman decided she wanted to do something different for her 18th birthday on Feb. 9.

She decided to spend it doing random acts of kindness throughout the county — one for every year of her life.

“I had seen something similar on somebody’s blog and I just thought it was such a great idea,” Chapman said. “I didn’t know if I could really do it, but I saw it and thought, ‘Wow, that’s really cool.’

Chapman was inspired to give back after being the recipient of great kindness herself.

She explained that she was selected by her church, Browns Bridge Community in north Forsyth, to go on a mission trip this summer to the Philippines.

“I was really excited to be selected, but it also comes with a $2,800 fee to go and I was like, ‘How am I going to do this? I’m a high school student, I can barely put gas in my car.’”

Instead of sending out form letters to businesses in the community seeking donations, Chapman wanted to raise money in a different way.

So she organized an event at her parents Keller Williams Community Partners Office in December where she sold soup, salad and baked potatoes for lunch.

“We thought we’d raise maybe $200 or $300, but we walked out of there with over $1,300,” she said, noting that people she didn’t even know were eager to help.

She said people from not just her parents’ office but also from surrounding businesses came, many of them writing her sizable checks well above and beyond the lunch cost.

“So the generosity from even a small community like this made me realize how fortunate I am and so I just wanted to give back a little bit. That really made me want to do what I could.

“I can’t write those big checks, but I can do little things that I think make our community better.”

Chapman then began planning her 18th birthday, trying to think “outside the box” with her random acts of kindness.

The day began bright and early, with Chapman and boyfriend T.J. Chini bringing breakfast back from a local doughnut shop for her family.

She also gave her parents and younger brother, Chase, small gifts and handwritten letters of appreciation.

“I knew I wanted to do things for my community, but my family has been so supportive, so I started out with them,” she said.

She and Chini then set out to complete her community acts of kindness.

They included taking baked goods to local sheriff’s deputies and firefighters, donating coloring books and crayons to Northside Hospital-Forsyth, and delivering handmade Valentine’s cards to a local assisted living facility.

Some of the more unique acts of kindness involved leaving outdoor toys and bubbles at Central Park for families to enjoy, taping bags of microwave popcorn to area movie rental kiosks, and paying for the person behind them in a drive-through line.

A few of Chapman’s acts were more personal. For example, she wrote a lengthy thank-you note to someone who had given her money to go on a church retreat, and left a thank-you note and gift card for the family’s mail carrier.

Lori Chapman, Savannah’s mother, said her daughter’s birthday project made her proud.

“Of course as her mother, I thought it was incredibly cool since she took it all on by herself,” she said. “It was totally her thing.”

But her daughter’s gestures weren’t a surprise. Lori Chapman said Savannah’s “always been a giver.”

“She’s always gotten involved … she enjoys giving back and she’s a hard worker too.”

She added that her day of random kindness proved not only her generosity but work ethic.

“That was not an easy day,” Lori Chapman said. “She started at 8:30 in the morning and was exhausted when she got back home after 8 that night.

“It was also a learning experience because she got to deal with lots of people she otherwise would have never met.”

The younger Chapman agreed the day was exhausting, but said it was worth it.

“I thought who could I do something for to thank them or inspire them to keep doing what they’re doing,” she said. “It was such a great experience for me.”  

She said nobody, no matter their age or income, should hesitate to give to others.

“Even just the most random things and the smallest things like holding a door for somebody or saying ‘thank you’ or writing personal thank-you notes … are just so awesome. Even just the little things that don’t require but two or three minutes of real effort, there are a lot of things you can do that aren’t elaborate.”

Her father, Jamie, hopes his daughter’s birthday will start a trend.

“We always hear, ‘Kindness is contagious’ and any time you can set that example, it speaks volumes,” he said. “[We hope] this might fuel others and it’ll be a domino effect.”

 

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