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How to Start a SPARK

What is SPARK?

In the summer of 2015, I was invited to the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards 7300 camp at La Roche College in Pennsylvania to give a presentation on The Smile Project. It was the second Rotary camp I had been invited to in the month and I was excited. I felt very comfortable talking in front of people and to have the stage to talk about Happiness? Even better.

After the presentation, I was chatting with a group of campers who justifiably asked me how they could get more involved with The Smile Project.

What a smart, innocent, and obvious question.

I had no response.

Everything had been going so well that morning and in one moment, my mind had derailed.

How could they get involved?

For three and a half years – at that point – The Smile Project had been just me. There was nothing more to the organization then some colorful t-shirts and inspiring social media posts. How could people get more involved? I wasn’t letting them.

I went home that night and began brainstorming a way to activate young people in their schools and communities.

That’s how I started a SPARK.

SPARK stands for “Strengthening Positivity and Reinforcing Kindness.” These clubs are autonomous branches of The Smile Project and they can be formed at any school, youth group, or neighborhood. The goal? To spread the message of The Smile Project and to foster happiness and kindness in their communities.

To start a SPARK near you, you need a group of committed individuals, an advisor, and the handy dandy SPARK start-up packet. Chat with me for more information. I’d love to help you get started.

The 2016-2017 school year was the pilot year for 4 SPARK Clubs in Pennsylvania at Westminster College, Slippery Rock University, Lebanon Valley College, and Redbank Valley High School.

I could not be more proud of what these groups have accomplished. They took a very loose idea and ran with it – proving you are never too young to do something incredible…proving that even the smallest act of kindness can have a lasting impact.

I chatted with the members of the Slippery Rock University SPARK Club last night as they held their final meeting. I talked with them a little about The Smile Project and we took turns asking each other questions. I made them all pose for a picture and I said thank you about a hundred times.

We hung up and I walked to the kitchen to refill my water bottle, almost ready to return to the normal flow of my work night. But then I had another realization.

What made you want to start The Smile Project?

Well, nothing really. I didn’t even mean to start it. I was just really happy one day and so I posted a Happiness is status. No, there really wasn’t a plan. I really didn’t think I was doing anything with it. I didn’t plan on going to 100 days or 1,000 or most recently 2,000 days. I never imagined raising money for charity or building a website or designing t-shirts. I never dreamed I would be speaking about Happiness.

All I did was post a Facebook status.

And maybe that’s the most important takeaway from all of this. It isn’t always the grand, dramatic actions that yield the lasting results. Sometimes it’s simply taking a moment of daily meditation to think of what we are grateful for…to think of what brings us Happiness.

Without Day One, there is no Day 2000. Without Day One, there is no Smile Project. Without Day One, there are no SPARK Clubs and that’s a whole lot of kindness that vanishes from four communities.

It’s rather silly to think about now – to see everything that has stemmed from a simple social media post. Silly and amazing.

Good acts are always rewarded. I promise. If you focus on putting positivity into the world, it will come back to you tenfold.

To the 2016-2017 SPARK Clubs who embarked on this incredible and educational journey with me – thank you. It takes a special and dedicated group of people to be the first to do radical things with joy and passion. I’m glad you are part of my tribe.

And I can’t wait for 2017-2018.

Love always,


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