Being a child with few friends who is often the victim of bullying can be a lonely and sometimes terrifying experience. But a Canadian family has been working on changing that by sending bright sentiments to children in need of cheer.
The Friend Send, an initiative for kids to help other kids aged 12 and under, has blossomed across Canada.
Jessica Cohn, together with her 10-year-old twins, Jeremy and Tamara, created The Friend Send in October. Determined to do something about kids who had no RSVPs to their birthday parties and who were being bullied in school, the Cohns nicknamed the project, “the mitzvah mission.”
“On Facebook, I had seen parents post about their kid’s birthday party, saying that sometimes nobody shows up, or maybe two of the 25 invited would show up. That made me so sad to think of these kids being lonely and miserable on the day of their birthday,” Jessica Cohn said.
“I couldn’t stand that, so I talked about it with my kids and we decided we had to do something about this. We brainstormed and came up with the idea of sending birthday cards to these kids to let them know that they have friends out there who believed in them and are cheering them on and hoping they have a wonderful birthday and a great year.”
The premise of The Friend Send is to boost children’s self-esteem with encouraging messages in the form of birthday and kindness cards.
“I feel like we should do good things for every person, and as Jewish people, we should do awesome mitzvahs,” Jeremy Cohn said.
“I love writing positive things. What could be better than helping a kid? We’re kids and we love it when people help us. It makes me feel good and I want every kid to feel good,” added Tamara Cohn.
The trio hand-select the cards and personalize them for the designated recipient.
“We make them individual. If we know a kid really likes something in particular, we will try and put a drawing or a picture on it,” Jessica Cohn said.
“The twins write messages first in their own words. I write a much longer message. I send messages, such as, ‘We heard it’s your birthday and are so excited to send you a card, because we know what a wonderful person you must be, and we hope that wonderful things come your way this year and that you know every day how special you are.’ ”
“We send a similar message with the kindness card,” Jessica Cohn continued. “My kids put quotes such as: ‘Be strong and brave like the rock’; ‘Keep your chin up you can do this’; ‘People believe in you and don’t ever doubt that there are people in the world that care about you and that believe in you.’ ”
That made me so sad to think of these kids being lonely and miserable on the day of their birthday.
– Jessica Cohn
The Cohns have a Facebook page that has grown to more than 130 members.
“I posted asking parents to contact me if they want us to send their child a card and received replies from other parents asking, ‘Can we send cards, too, with our own children?’ I said, ‘This is wonderful.’ Now each child is getting between 10 and 20 cards from other people – not just from my kids and me, but from others, as well.”
Cohn had to temporarily stop because of privacy concerns over disseminating contact information for underage people, so she is in the process of raising enough funds to get a P.O. box, so Facebook members can send her their cards, which she will then forward to the kids.
There are two school boards in the Greater Toronto Area that are also participating in the project.
“Students will send out cards. It has become a community effort. That’s what the mitzvah is – it’s something you do from your heart. I am hoping to connect with more teachers who might want to do friendship clubs in their schools,” she said.
“We want people to know what we do, and if they have kids who need some cheer, we are here to send them cards and give them support.”