Over 300 dancers filled North Division Street of downtown Salisbury Sunday as community members danced in celebration of World Kindness Day.
This is the third year that the nonprofit organization Wicomico Grows Kindness hosted Dance for Kindness, but worldwide, the event has been going on since 2012.
Initially, the project started out of the efforts of nonprofit Life Vest Inside to spread acts of kindness around the U.S. The event grew to a global phenomenon with the involvement of 65 counties in over 240 cities.
Orly Wahba, founder and CEO of Life Vest Inside, organized the event and traveled across the world to Jerusalem to jump-start the DFK there and spread kindness.
Starting on Nov. 11, from places including San Francisco to New Delhi, people came together to join in a kindness-inspired freeze mob in which everyone learned the same dance and performed it to the same song.
The event in Salisbury was complete with a food truck, a photo booth with hashtags to spread kindness messages, a chalk station encouraging self-expression of kindness and a puzzle-making station in which one could decorate a single puzzle piece to eventually be collaborated into a cohesive work of art.
Founder of the non-governmental organization World Kindness USA Grace Murdock, 69, has organized the dance in Salisbury for the past three years.
Murdock conveys her passion for kindness not only through her NGO, but in her everyday life, and she hopes that events like DFK will help the world.
“You know I have my love glasses on because we can’t see hate with our love glasses on,” Murdock said. “And I just want to tell everyone at this gathering that this is us. This is Salisbury. This is Wicomico County. I want it to be Maryland. I want it to be the world.”
In her speech to the community, Murdock also announced that Salisbury is on the path to being named the first-ever “World Kindness USA City.”
The title is currently pending but Salisbury only needs two more kindness indicators to make it a reality.
“We are at the forefront of kindness, and I’m telling you that it’s growing, it’s happening in Salisbury and we’re going to make it happen around the world,” Murdock said.
Mayor of Salisbury Jake Day handed out a number of awards at the event under the title of “We Heart SBY Kindness award.”
Day first recognized community member Mandel Copeland’s “tireless efforts” to serve people in need, highlighting his “50K sole initiative efforts to feed, minister to and spread love in all of Salisbury.”
Day went on to recognize acts of kindness and give awards to Susie Peterson for “feeding the children who come all summer to Camden Garden and for showing them love and compassion,” as well as the owners of Olde Towne Deli, Melissa and Richard Malone, who work to support the community, the homeless and people in need.
The final award given by Day was to the recipient of first place in the National Kindness Speech Contest, 11-year-old Savanna Brooks.
“If you don’t know Savanna, she is an incredibly special person right here in our community. A brave and bright individual who has chosen to speak out for kindness. For her inspirational words in the National Think Kindness Speech Contest, and for convincing all of us that kindness can indeed change the world … and for winning that contest, Miss Savanna Brooks,” Day said as he presented Brooks with her award.
Grandmother of Brooks, Donna Lee Nefferdorf, “could not be prouder” of her granddaughter for spreading the message of kindness.
Nefferdorf came out to the event in support of Brooks as well as in support of the cause. She specifically ran a table called “Operation We Care” in which people were encouraged to write thank you cards for soldiers and donate canned goods.
A number of students from Salisbury University also came out to the event to volunteer their help toward a greater cause.
Freshman Roberta Ewane signed up for the event to obtain volunteer hours for a class requirement, but she was happy she attended.
“I had never heard of this event before, and being here, it’s super cool. The whole concept of it is amazing,” Ewane said. “And I would definitely come out next year and the year after that, even though I don’t need it.”
In her winning speech, Brooks emphasized that kindness is contagious.
“When you show someone an act of kindness, they will pass it on,” Brooks said. “Although they might forget what you did, they will never forget how it made them feel.”
When asked the importance of being kind, Brooks put it simply, saying, “Kindness is important because it could change somebody’s life.”
By CAROLINE STREETT
Gull Life editor
Featured photo: Event director Grace Murdock poses with chalk art before the dance (Caroline Streett images).