Raising Changemakers: Rylyn & Raegan

Oct 24, 2020 | Today's Family Now

Sisters Rylyn and Raegan work at the picnic table in their backyard (the table is now a beautiful rainbow of colors thanks to their spray painting). The girls are wearing the shirts they designed for their Be Kind organization. Follow BeKindOldhamCounty on Facebook.

Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”

On the day our children are born, our hearts are filled with hope for their futures. We bring them into the world and wish them to be strong, healthy, happy, intelligent, capable, and good despite the inherent suffering around us. We hope, in the deep pulp of our hearts, for their lives to have purpose. We hope that their tiny hands will help others, and their hearts will be filled with empathy for others. We hope they might change the world.

In this article series, you will meet several young change-makers, who have used their power to serve others and the families who nurtured them to find their “why.”

JUST BE KIND

We’ve all been there in some shape, form, or fashion. Side of the road. Flat tire. Fiery, frustrated, fuming. Hungry, hot, and tired. This recipe for the classic category five family meltdown, however, sparked an ironically positive change in Raegan (11) and Rylyn (9) Richins’ lives forever.

On a road trip in LaRue County, when tensions and tempers were high, the girls looked up from their iPads and noticed a little sign on the side of the road that read “Just Be Kind.” Once they opened their eyes to the first sign, they noticed several others that peppered the landscape — and the simple message made them instantly feel better.

“It came when we needed it most,” says their mother Rhonda Richins. “The girls have three siblings with Down syndrome, the oldest of which also has autism and other significant issues. That sign on the road helped us in that moment.

“One night, several weeks later, we were having a hard evening with their sister, and the girls brought up the sign,” Rhonda recalls. They wondered if they could replicate this concept in their Oldham County community, sell the signs, and donate the money to charities that help children with special needs like their sisters.

So Raegan and Rylyn started making and selling their hand painted “BE KIND” signs around Oldham County, and in less than a year have cranked out over 1,500 signs that can be seen in front yards, businesses, and schools throughout the county. The girls have also been featured on the news, were successful in petitioning the Oldham County City Counsel to deem LaGrange as “The Kindness Capital of Kentucky,” and have donated money to Pillar (a non-profit dedicated to helping older individuals with intellectual disabilities), Blessings in a Backpack, and the Oldham County Humane Society.

“The signs make people happy and allow the girls to be creative. Little did we know that just after the girls started this project, their sister was going to be hospitalized for six months. It has been a natural medicine — a true gift for our family,” Rhonda says.

“I might change my mind if we had to do this all over again,” Rhonda says with a chuckle. “It has been a labor of love to make an average of 100 signs a week with a child in the hospital. But when we were having a really bad day, serving others always cheered us up. It has given my daughters a voice. They know that age doesn’t matter when you want to make a change, and that kindness can be shown in many ways. It has made them independent thinkers.”

Rhonda says that the signs seem to soften others’ hearts, and often when they deliver the signs, people will throw in a few extra bucks for supplies, donate old paint, or pitch in for ice cream for the girls.

“It has been more than just two words; it has been a movement,” Rhonda says. “We need that reminder to be kind now more than ever.”

P.S. Learn about the PowerHouse Women in our community.

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