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10.01.14 Danville Today News


SpreadKindness - It's Contagious!


Maria Haswell woke up one morning in February 2009 wanting to perform random acts of kindness. Her online search found no organizations that matched her vision. Encouraged by husband, Mark, Maria gathered a small group of like-minded locals. Taking on a life of it's own, the project grew, suggesting the need for a formal structure. In January 2010, the Haswells registered Spread Kindness as a 501(c)(3) non-profit. They wanted their gestures to be community based, but they soon found their local acts had a global reach. 


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St. Patrick’s Day Parade Will Be a Hug Fest


Thanks to a local non-profit attendees at the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day parade are likely to get something unexpected — a hug. aims to make the world a better place, one kind act at a time. For the second year in a row the local organization is gearing up to participate in Dublin’s parade.


“We’re always looking to spread kindness to as many people as possible, so big gatherings like the parade are a great opportunity to do that,” said Mark Haswell of San Ramon, who founded the organization in February 2009 with his wife Maria. 

Through various events and projects, the husband and wife team have helped bring kindness to local communities and they’ll do that again at this year’s parade.


“It’s also a lot of fun for our organization’s volunteers. Who wouldn’t want to be in a parade? And the crowd is really into it. Last year, we got a lot of smiles and cheers and hugs from the people along the parade route,” added Haswell.


The hope is that this kindness will become contagious. The organization believes that when someone is kind to you, you’re more likely to be kind to someone else. They want people to take the kindness their receive and pass it on to others.


“We always enjoy the element of surprise we create at events like this. No one is really expecting a free hug when they show up for the parade. From their perspective, it’s definitely a ‘random’ act of kindness,” said Haswell. is looking for volunteers to help spread kindness by walking in the parade on March 12, handing out candies, smiling, waving, hugging, and encouraging others to be kind.


“We really believe kindness has the power to change the world for the better. And everyone has the ability and opportunity to be kind. It may be one small, simple act at a time, in one little corner of the world, but it makes a difference, and it adds up,” said Haswell.


“If everyone acted more kindly towards one another, more often, wouldn’t the world be a better place?”





09.10.10 San Ramon


Local Nonprofit Aims to Make the World Better, One Kind Act at a Time


Consider it a pyramid scheme for the altruist.


The idea is to do something nice for someone and encourage that person, in turn, to repay the gesture with an act of kindness toward someone else–a pay-it-forward movement, except more organized.


It’s a simple thought that San Ramon hypnotherapist Maria Haswell, 38, has made the sole purpose of her nonprofit,


“It doesn’t have to be anything complicated,” said the mother of two. “It could be as simple as paying for the people behind you in the drive-through.”


With that aim, Haswell and her husband, 51-year-old co-founder Mark Haswell, will head out to the Livermore Children’s Fair this weekend to proffer free hugs. Just because, well, who couldn’t use no-strings-attached friendly gesture?

“That’s definitely one of our more popular activities,” said the male Haswell, who in early 2009 founded the organization with his wife after she came up with the idea on a whim, as a way to better herself.


It actually started as a Facebook post. “I just thought of that phrase ‘random acts of kindness’ and thought I should make more of an effort to do that in my own life,” said Maria Haswell. “So I updated my status to say that I’m going to commit random acts of kindness and encouraged others to do it with me.”


Enough people ran with the idea that she started thinking about how to keep the momentum going. So the Haswells enlisted some volunteers to go with them in a series of outreaches in San Ramon and in other Bay Area cities to hand out cheerful notes, free hugs or school supplies to needy children.


At first, only a handful of people would show up. But soon, upward of a dozen would start turning out for the mini acts-of-kindness missions, some with artfully decorated “free hugs” signs in tow.

And then the donations started pouring in.


Word got around that the Haswells were up to some good, so people started dropping off or mailing pencils, notebooks, medical supplies, toiletries or other sundries for care packages the family would send to U.S. soldiers overseas or poor kids in Pittsburg.


“We’re always looking for new ways to reach out,” said Maria Haswell. “And more volunteers to help us.”

So far, the Haswells can count roughly 200 members of the group. Some are regulars at the outreaches, others stay in touch online through social networking, some donate supplies for the Spread Kindness adopt-a-soldier project.


“We want this to be a national organization, so however people choose to get involved is a huge help,” said Mark Haswell. “Some people have more time and resources than others.”


But he’s insistent that the spirit of giving is an easy one to adopt. “Just start small,” he said. “Keep it simple. It’s a mindset and a lifestyle.”


It helps, though, to have an organized effort and the encouragement of fellow do-gooders to keep it up, he said.

With the group’s newly branded nonprofit status, Spread Kindess is ready to spread out. Not only can donations become tax write-offs, but the status gives the organization more clout in the community, which opens the door to partnerships with other service clubs and public agencies.


The Haswell’s children–Khaela, 16, and Ryan, 14–want to start a kindness club at their school, Cal High, as a way to spread the kindness gospel.


“The possibilities are endless,” said Maria Haswell. “It’s exciting to see this take off.”




05.07.10 City Fan Club Seeks to Change the World with More Than Just Random Acts


A newly incorporated Tri-Valley organization has a simple yet profound goal: changing the world through acts of kindness. is dedicated to encouraging individuals to practice kindness in their everyday lives – to be kind, compassionate and loving to one another at home, at work, and in every interaction throughout the day. The organization provides tools, ideas and events that encourage kindness as a way of life, rather than just the occasional random act.


The group was founded by a San Ramon husband and wife team, Maria and Mark Haswell. They began with a vision of creating a happier and more kindhearted world, one person at a time. Through their website, projects, and community events, aims to inspire individuals and organizations to join in a unique approach to achieving personal and global happiness. holds regularly scheduled group events that celebrate the spirit of performing spontaneous acts of kindness. Upcoming events include a “Free Hugs” event for Bras for Cause Walk in Pleasanton on Saturday. Other current projects sponsored by the organization include an Adopt-A-Soldier program that provides “care packages” to soldiers stationed overseas; and the sponsorship of a year’s education, room and board for a young orphanage resident in Oaxaca, Mexico.


The best thing about is that visitors to the organization’s website can request free Kindness Cards. These cards enable individuals to easily do kind acts in their everyday lives. One side of the card includes a list of kind acts a person could perform – for example, paying the bridge toll for the person behind them, or leaving a book or magazine they’ve finished where someone else can have it. When the kind act is done, the individual passes the card along to the recipient of the kindness – and the other side of the card encourages the recipient to pass the kindness (and the card) along to someone else.


Individuals and groups can sign up for events, contribute to projects, obtain free Kindness Cards, and get more ideas on how to spread kindness at the organization’s website,




05.24.09 Contra Costa Times


San Ramon couple wants to remind the world to be kind, one act at a time


SAN RAMON — It just began as a Facebook status report: “Maria Haswell is “going to practice random acts of kindness today.”

The response her random thought drew surprised the San Ramon woman. Comments left on her Internet social networking page were all positive and supportive.


Haswell was inspired, and decided to ask others to join her in performing those random acts of kindness.

In February, she started the Web site with her husband Mark Haswell. She said she has since started a Facebook page for the group that has drawn about 600 people, she said.


The group’s purpose is to remind people to be kind, one simple act at a time.


“It doesn’t have to cost anything,” said Maria Haswell, 36. “It doesn’t have to be complicated.”


The Haswells have done individual acts of kindness, such as handing strangers $5 gift cards to Target or Starbucks, or paying for someone’s meal at the drive-thru.


Each time they do, they make sure the recipient gets a small-business card that tells the recipient that they have just received a random act of kindness. On the back of the cards are suggestions on ways to be kind.


“You start it going and it spreads,” said Mark Haswell, 50. “All we’re trying to do is start that flow of kindness.”


Aside from individual things the Haswells do, the group — which now hovers at about 40 members, including many friends of the couple — meets up once a month to practice kindness together.


For their first activity, a group of 10 went to San Ramon’s Central Park and passed out flowers, balloons and homemade cookies.

The reactions have been priceless, group member say. Some recipients are surprised, others have questioned the group’s intentions.

“It’s really cool to see that reaction,” said group member Cherie Trocha-Milichichi. “It’s not often that you are walking down the street and someone hands you a flower.”


Trocha-Milichichi, of Castro Valley, is a friend of Maria Haswell. “What she is doing is great,” she said. “I think that everybody needs to be reminded to be nice to one another without something in return.”


On Easter Sunday, the group went to Lake Merritt and passed out plastic eggs filled with candy. The wrapped candy included a note, letting the recipient know they had just received an act of kindness.


On Saturday, the group went to play bingo with residents of the nursing home at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Livermore.

Member Lorena Bathey of San Ramon said the world has grown more cynical, and doing nice things for people is one way to change the attitude of others.


There’s another upside for doing nice things, she said. “You feel great,” Bathey said. “We all have big smiles on our faces … It’s like an endorphin rush. I highly recommend it to everybody.”


In this economy, the small things have come to mean much more, she added.


The group has also adopted a soldier and are now seeking donations by June 19 for their second adopted service member.

To raise money for its random acts, the group is selling T-shirts and wristbands.


Still in the early phase, the Haswells are in the process of getting a nonprofit status approved for the group. 

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