Paid in Kind
Glenn and Sandy Rosati of the Shyann Kindness Project. Photo by Kris Hanning.
Paid in Kind
Sandy Rosati fell in love with a little nine-month-old girl while volunteering at Casa de los Niños in 1998. “The first time I said hello to Shyann, she gave me the best smile and shot an arrow into my heart,” recalls Sandy Rosati, the co-founder and executive director of The Shyann Kindness Project (TSKP). Baby Shyann weighed only 2.4 pounds when she was born 13 weeks prematurely in 1997. Among other complications she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a swallow disorder, developmental delays and seizures.
“Over the next few months, I realized I would not be able to say goodbye to this little girl,” Sandy explains. So she and her husband Glenn Rosati began the long process of trying to adopt Shyann — and in December 2000 she officially became a member of their family. However, after years of medical ups and downs, Shyann passed away on Jan. 4, 2005.
“From day one, Shyann was a blessing to us. We became a family instead of a couple, with our lives revolving around her.” Taking care of Shyann was a fulltime job for Sandy; in addition to being her mom, she was also her nurse, physical therapist and advocate. “Being her mother was the greatest job I ever had and one that I miss beyond words. She went everywhere with us. She was our special angel. I will have a hole in my heart that will never heal until the day I see her again. Glenn and I still thank God every night for choosing us to be her parents.”
“She had disabilities, but in many ways she was just a typical kid,” says Glenn. “We used to have ‘date day’ on Saturday. She would go with me on errands and we would go to a book store and have lunch.”
“Shyann was and continues to be the greatest blessing in our lives and words cannot describe how much we miss her,” Sandy says emotionally.
After Shyann passed away, Sandy and Glenn were given a packet of information that included ways to honor their child. They followed the suggestion of handing out cards at the Celebration of Life service asking people to perform a random act of kindness in their daughter’s honor. “During our first Christmas without her in 2005, a good friend honored the love we shared by wrapping up packages of books, crafts, and coloring books, and leaving them at TMC for Children’s emergency department. She also attached a kindness card to each package.”
She and Glenn were so taken with the idea that on Shyann’s birthday in April of 2006, they assembled gift packages to give out at Gospel Rescue Mission and TMC. That was the beginning of The Shyann Kindness Project. Since that time, the volunteer organization has served more than 13,000 underprivileged and medically fragile children.
The organization’s motto is “Passing Kindness On, One Act at a Time.” Every month, volunteers from TSKP host two Kindness Gift Giving Events at low-income schools, shelters, group homes, hospital emergency rooms and clinics for special-needs children.
“Most of the children who attend our events are living in situations that are difficult to imagine. We give children in need of a smile, a reason to smile.” Many of them arrive with sadness etched on their faces and the weight of the world on their shoulders. When they leave, they are filled with happiness and excitement.
Often the children at an event choose a package for a sibling or cousin instead of themselves, she notes. “I hope the message of kindness and acceptance stays with these children and that they practice it. I hope they remember that people who did not even know them took the time to pass on a kindness to them.”
Although TSKP hosts an annual Christmas Party for 200 children at a different school each year, Sandy points out that they provide toys, books and other items to children in need throughout the year, not just the holidays. The organization also serves children up to age 18 as long as they are still in school. “Often it is the older children who need kindness the most.”
Because TSKP is 100-percent volunteer, “it would not exist without our fantastic volunteers,” says Sandy. “We also depend on in-kind donations and financial donations.”
Volunteers need no specific skills, but they should enjoy interacting with children and be flexible. Most Kindness Gift Giving Events take place on weekdays and usually require a time commitment of three hours. Other volunteer opportunities include helping at the warehouse, fundraising and writing grants.
A volunteer application is available on the website. Backgrounds and references are checked and prospective volunteers are personally interviewed before being allowed to interact with the children.
For more information or to volunteer, call 749-4021 or visit www.shyannkindness.org. — Wendy Sweet
The Shyann Kindness Project
4th Annual “Tri” for Acts of Kindness Sprint Triathlon/Duathlon and 5K Run
Saturday, Sept. 14, 6:30 a.m.
La Mariposa Resort.
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