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updated: 6/13/2012 3:55 PM

Random act of kindness kicks off Cook Memorial program

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  • Ryan Garcia helps sell Jelly Belly jelly beans on the street to raise money for Misericordia, a Chicago campus that offers community care for adults and children with developmental and physical disabilities. It was one act of kindness out of 366 he plans to complete by the end of the year. Garcia spoke about his mission Tuesday at the Cook Memorial Public Library.

      Ryan Garcia helps sell Jelly Belly jelly beans on the street to raise money for Misericordia, a Chicago campus that offers community care for adults and children with developmental and physical disabilities. It was one act of kindness out of 366 he plans to complete by the end of the year. Garcia spoke about his mission Tuesday at the Cook Memorial Public Library.
    Courtesy of Ryan Garcia

 
By Jennifer Earl
jearl@dailyherald.com

Ryan Garcia's mission first gained national attention when he stood on the corner of State and Randolph in Chicago on a cold January day offering free hugs, one random act of kindness out of 366 he vowed to complete as a 2012 New Year's resolution.

Tuesday night, Garcia, 30, completed act number 164 at Cook Memorial Public Library in Vernon Hills by kicking-off a summer reading program.

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"(This program) is making reading a really fun activity for children and adults alike," the Chicago man said.

Speaking to an audience of over 50 men, women and children hanging on his every word, Garcia answered nonstop questions about his experiences and his inspiration for kindness -- his 9-month old daughter, Isla.

"It's humbling when people ask me to speak," he said.

After Garcia answered questions he helped people commit their own acts of kindness by donating supplies, writing letters to soldiers, senior citizens, and people who are hospitalized, planting flowers to give to someone, picking up litter, and making sandwiches for the PADS homeless shelter.

Ellen Bassett, a reference librarian who organized the event, said she heard about Garcia on the radio and immediately contacted him to help with the library's 'Dream Big' summer reading program.

"We wanted people to dream big and we thought that he'd be a good example," she said. "He's dreaming big for what he's doing for other people, we thought that would inspire our community to dream big and inspire others."

Writing a letter to dead soldiers' family members, honoring American veterans and policemen, raising awareness for cancer, and becoming an ordained minister to marry his friends, are just a few of the acts of kindness that Garcia has done this year. He is also donating 10 cents for every person that follows him on his blog, Facebook, and Twitter, currently adding up to about $900, for a cause which he will reveal on day 366.

"The one thing I've always maintained from the very beginning is that I don't want anything for myself, nothing for me," Garcia said.

Tom Zhuang, 44, a Vernon Hills resident who attended the event with his two sons, said he brought his children to hear Garcia talk to help them mature and learn from his experiences.

"I think it is a very good example to teach and to help my two children grow," he said. "It also really inspired me to do more, to think about more, and to help the community."

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