New Jersey Dad Starts ‘Kindness Challenge’ After Son’s Suicide

Dylan Vassallo
Dylan Vassallo Dennis Vassallo via AP

One kind word can change someone’s entire day. New Jersey father Dennis Vassallo started a Facebook group dedicated to sharing stories about random acts of kindness after his son Dylan Vassallo’s suicide in 2015.

The Kindness Challenge, which Dennis initially started for friends and family on January 31, asks people to perform a daily act of kindness, whether it’s holding the door or giving someone a compliment. The group now has over 74,000 members posting about nice things they’ve done or things people have done for them.

In the description, Dennis explained that both the memory of Dylan and the “division, rancor and anger” he was seeing on Facebook inspired him to create the challenge. “As all or most of you know by now, our family tragically lost our son, Dylan, on August 4, 2015,” he wrote in the group’s description. “He had a wonderful giving spirit, a legacy in which we will always continue on with. It got me thinking … what simple kind things could we all do for the betterment of our world, society and ultimately our souls. The thought came, what if we had a kindness challenge?”

Dylan Vassallo
Dylan Vassallo Courtesy John E. Day Funeral Home

Dylan’s sister, Julia Vassallo, told local news station PIX11 that her late brother “would have loved The Kindness Challenge. He would have been posting everyday.” According to Dylan’s obituary, he was involved in a variety of activities and charities such as participating in the Boy Scouts for seven years, serving as an altar boy at St. Benedict’s of Holmdel church and volunteering in Honduras.

In just three weeks, the group has amassed dozens of daily posts that are sure to make you smile. One member of the group posted on Friday, February 24, that she was at Windham Mountain in New York when she saw a 9-year-old boy in line to buy lunch. “He had his cheeseburger on the tray with his $20,” she wrote. “He moved for a second to grab a donut and someone took his money. Poor kid was so upset. Didn’t hesitate, I bought him lunch.”

A high school teacher shared that her favorite random act of kindness is to call her students’ homes for positive reasons. “I made a call last night and the mom said I made her day. Yay!” she wrote.

Another woman wrote that when she picked up her 8-year-old granddaughter from school, she asked the girl to tell her about an act of kindness that she did or saw that day. “She shared that she was jumping rope with a friend and she messed up and her friend said it’s OK you can have another turn. I have to tell you that when she shared that with me she had the biggest smile on her face,” she wrote. “I’m reminded that not everybody’s going to get it right the first time. We as adults need to say it’s OK you can have another turn.” 

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