A man who lost his son to suicide has honoured his son’s selfless spirit by creating a global kindness challenge.
At the start of the year, Dennis Vassallo launched ‘The Kindness Challenge’ Facebook group, an online community encouraged to “lift each other up” through selfless acts.
Dennis, whose son Dylan died in 2015 aged 17, urged members to perform daily acts of kindness to combat the “division, rancor and anger” that many of us witness on our social media feeds every day.
In less than a month, the group has a following of over 60,000 people - a figure that’s constantly climbing.
Dennis, who is from New Jersey, told Associated Press: “Never in a million years would I have expected such a response, but it seems to have people thinking about what we were all taught as kids: to be good to people and help them.”
Pictured above: Dylan Vassallo, whose photo is being used on his father’s Facebook profile
The idea is that those who join the group take part in a daily act of kindness, and then share it in the group for others to see.
”This page is to lift each other up and our hearts. To escape the arguing and division that has taken over parts of social media,” Dennis wrote on the page.
The kindness challenge has reached people all over the globe. One woman in the US told of how she paid a $200 (£160) medical bill for an older gentleman who was upset to find he had an outstanding bill while visiting the doctor’s.
Another person told of how her father-in-law found out he had a matter of weeks to live, so they flew to see him - as he was in hospital in another state - and a woman who worked at the hospital helped them arrange an impromptu wedding.
“An amazing lady who worked at the hospital arranged a beautiful wedding for us in just a few hours,” she wrote. “It was the most beautiful wedding anyone could’ve asked for. What a special day!”
Dennis explained that the kindness challenge is the perfect remedy to the negativity that often fills his Facebook feed.
“I like and love all of my friends regardless of their opinions. I don’t like all the anger. It is really disheartening,” Dennis explained.
“I was told a very long time ago that I am either part of the problem or part of the solution.
“I don’t believe this will be a solution, [but] maybe it can be a tiny step towards treating each other with some love, respect and above all kindness.”
He concluded: “I challenge all of my friends to join this group, to do the daily challenge, to invite others to join and maybe truly prove that love, respect and kindness is alive.”
Useful websites and helplines:
Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393 Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.) Get Connected is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org