Growing kindness: Budding nonprofit empowers kids to help others


A new nonprofit serving the greater Indianapolis area focuses on ways to encourage children to help other people. One of the first local Seeds of Caring projects involved Lawrence-based Girl Scout Troop 05493, whose members decorated cards, wrote encouraging messages and filled goody bags for young athletes with disabilities.

Recently, Troop leaders Stephanie Greenwald and Katie Lewis herded the approximately 30 girls into a classroom at Cathedral High School, where Lewis works and the Scouts were given a free space to meet. On long tables in the classroom were black-and-white cards and a variety of colored pencils.

As the girls laughed, talked and settled in along the tables, Greenwald said, “We’re going to work with a company today called Seeds of Caring. They formed in Ohio a few years ago. And they just started programs in Indy. They are focused on things that kids like you guys can do. It helps you become kind, empathetic, caring humans. As you grow up, you learn to identify needs in your community and figure out a way to help solve the needs in your community.”

She told the girls that they were going to make good-luck bags for the Joseph Maley Foundation, which gives children with disabilities opportunities to compete in sports.

As the girls worked on their cards, Lewis talked about what it means to have a disability.

“There’s a lot of different types of disabilities,” she said. “There’s physical disabilities, there’s emotional disabilities. If you guys think about how you go throughout the day, and how when you get frustrated, you can calm yourself down. Can you guys think of times when you’ve calmed yourself down when you’re frustrated? Some kids can’t do that as easily. And some people maybe have something different about their body.”

The girls chimed in to talk about some people with disabilities that they knew, and the different challenges they experienced. In addition to adding bright colors to the cards, the Girl Scouts also wrote encouraging words inside.

Ruby McCracken, 8, carefully wrote out her message on a card she just finished coloring. She read it out loud: “Good luck. You can win. You can do anything.”

At the next table, Jaya Marie Coleman, 10; Jacey Carter, 8; and Dakota Chapman, 8, shared their messages: “I hope you win whatever you’re doing.” “You’re awesome. You can do this.” “You got this.”

The next phase involved an assembly line-style method to fill all the goody bags. Each bag included a small bottle of Gatorade, a pair of sunglasses, sunscreen, a fruit snack and a hand-colored card. The girls filled 48 bags that day.

Blair Everett is the Seeds of Caring Indianapolis program manager. She said the organization started in Columbus, Ohio, and they just branched out to Indianapolis this March.

“We realized that the need to provide high-quality, meaningful opportunities for young kids to give back wasn’t unique to Columbus,” she said. “Our Board of Directors studied the data and advised us that Indianapolis would be a city that would be very receptive to the work we are doing.”

Everett said the mission is about more than a volunteer network — it’s designed with age-appropriate, guided discussion, opportunities for empathetic reflection, and meaningful service, social action, and community-building activities.

“So, whether they’re packing food for a local shelter or creating welcome kits for new American families, kids are tapping into their ability to make a difference, now and in the future,” she said.

Everett said they plan to offer up to four projects a month with different themes. The projects can be completed at home, in a classroom, etc., and generally take 60 to 90 minutes. Families or youth leaders can register for a project at and will receive a project guide with detailed instructions.

“At the conclusion of the project, families will drop the donations they’ve created off on the porch of one of our fabulous volunteers who will then deliver the donation to the local nonprofit who needs them at the time they need them,” Everett said.

Everett said the goal is for kids to learn early on to care about others.

“It’s important for children to get involved at a young age because empathy and kindness are learned behaviors that must be taught and nurtured,” she said. “Our kids watch us closely and therefore we have an opportunity to be intentional about raising little humans who can see the world through another’s eyes and who understand a very critical message that we repeat often to our child participants: that we all need help sometimes and we can all give help sometimes.”

Clockwise from left, Girl Scout Troop 05493 members Ruby McCracken, Zoe Velasquez, Aria Fernandez, Skylar Frazee and Aveline Lewis work on cards that will be given to athletes with disabilities through a Seeds of Caring service project. (Photos by Adam Seif)

What is the Joseph Maley Foundation?

The Joseph Maley Foundation was founded by the family of Joseph Maley, born July 6, 1990. Joseph, the oldest of five boys in the family, had numerous disabilities. To help his younger siblings talk with classmates and friends about their older brother’s experiences, mom Vivian Maley developed Disability Awareness, a educational program.

Joseph Maley died from leukemia at the age of 18. The family established the Joseph Maley Foundation in 2008 in his honor with a mission to “serve children of all abilities.”

The foundation provides education and awareness programs, along with service programs. Among the service projects are adaptive, inclusive fitness events that pair children with disabilities with experienced athletes to work together and compete in athletic events.

The foundation also offers support programs and resources for families of people with disabilities. For more go to


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