(Contest Nominee) RACHEL’S CHALLENGE Starting a Chain Reaction of Kindness in Schools and Communities

Seven Colorado charities have been nominated in Citywide Banks’ Charity Hand-Up Contest taking place on Facebook from March 17-31, 2014. The local community is invited to vote for a nominee and enter prize drawings. $7,500 in cash donations will be split between nominees based on the voting results. CLICK HERE for voting page

“I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go.”

Those words are from an English class essay written by a 17-year-old girl. Her name was Rachel Joy Scott and she was the first person killed in the Columbine High School tragedy in 1999.

Her essay was not the only words of inspiration that Rachel wrote. Her dad, Darrell Scott, found six journals in which she wrote rather sophisticated thoughts for a girl her age about kindness and compassion.

Darrell was so moved by her writing that, to honor her, he began speaking about Rachel’s story and sharing her thoughts on how treating people with kindness and compassion could make such a positive difference in their lives, and everyone around them.

He and his surviving four children (Rachel was the middle child) were invited to speak at schools and organizations across the country to tell Rachel’s story, inspiring students and educators to basically be kind to each other.

Their hour-long talk became known as “Rachel’s Challenge,” because they would challenge students to do five things:

1) Look for the best in others
2) Dream big
3) Choose positive influences
4) Speak with kindness
5) Start your own chain reaction

In 2001, they formalized these talks and their movement by establishing Rachel’s Challenge as a Colorado-based non-profit organization.

“Darrell wasn’t a public speaker. He had a normal job, but his life changed in an instant on April 20, 1999, and he really wanted honor Rachel’s memory,” explains Rachel’s Challenge Sales Manager Cody Burch.

Their mission, says Burch, is to help students, educators, parents and administrators make the school a safer and more connected place for kids to live and learn. The group’s website highlights a staggering statistic that every day 160,000 students do not go to school due to fear of being bullied.

The organization’s rapid growth attests the great need for their message. By 2004 they were speaking at over 100 middle and high schools. Last year, they were in almost 3,000 schools.

They expanded to elementary schools in 2007 and even businesses a couple of years after that. In addition to their hour long assembly presentation, they’ve added support, training and follow up programs and curriculum to help students and staff “with fun and practical ways to keep the message going at their schools.”

Burch says students are developing remarkable and creative ways to show kindness and compassion. One group of high school students in Illinois, for example, treated underprivileged elementary school students to a movie and popcorn, and gave them “star treatment”. “It was called ‘You Are a Star Day’ and they had them walk down a red carpet into the movie theater while the high school students took photos of them and made them feel really important – like they were part of an awards show,” says Burch.

They’ve received feedback from schools that disciplinary referrals have been decreased, student involvement in after school activities increased, grades and test scores are up and, most heartening, that suicides have been averted — all after the Rachel’s Challenge program was implemented.

In order to help the organization reach their goal of getting their message out to every school in the US (they estimate that they’ve reached about 15 to 17 percent of schools), they started a fundraising tool called www.LetsEndBullying.org where students, schools or other organizations can start their own micro fundraising campaign to support Rachel’s Challenge. Anyone can visit the site and start raising funds right away.

A $5,000 donation from Citywide Banks would go toward need-based scholarships for schools to help them bring Rachel’s Challenge to their community. For more information on ways to donate your time or money, please visit www.RachelsChallenge.org.

Vote to Give Rachel’s Challenge a $5,000 Hand-Up
As a family owned bank focused entirely on the Front Range, Citywide Banks shares a commitment to our local community with Rachel’s Challenge. Through our Charity Hand-Up Contest, we are proud to spotlight the great work and ongoing needs of Colorado nonprofits. The local community is invited to cast a vote on Facebook for one of seven nominated Colorado causes. Based on the 15-day vote, Citywide Banks will divide $7,500 in cash contributions among the seven charities nominated by bank employees. The charity with the most votes will receive the top $5,000 donation. Contest voters can also enter to win great prizes, including dinner for two at a top Denver restaurant. Official prize drawing rules are available by clicking here. Full contest details are at www.CitywideBanks.com/charity/.

How to Cast Your Vote – March 17-31, 2014
The contest is open to the general public within the Denver/Boulder community (non-customers welcome to participate; no purchase necessary). The easiest way to vote is online by clicking the “Charity Contest” tab on the Citywide Banks Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/citywidebanks. Users will need to “like” the bank’s Facebook page to cast a vote/entry online. One vote/entry is permitted during the 15-day contest. After voting on Facebook, users can use the sharing buttons to easily invite their Facebook friends to vote for their favorite charity. There is even an added bonus prize drawing for those voters that post the contest on their own Facebook timeline.

Spread the Word about Rachel’s Challenge
Tell your coworkers, friends, and family in Colorado to cast their vote on Facebook. Use the sharing buttons above this article, on the Facebook voting page, or throughout Citywide Banks’ social media pages to help spread the word.

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