Father tells of son’s legacy of kindness
DAYTON – Drew Stevens held up a picture of his 12-year-old son Josh in a baseball uniform.
“He was really good at baseball, probably even better at football,” Stevens told Sutro Elementary School students on Wednesday. “Josh was just a really good athlete.”
But four years after Josh’s death, Stevens said, his son is not remembered for the number of grand slams he hit or for his touchdowns.
“Josh was a little boy who was wonderfully kind,” Stevens said. “He wasn’t rich. He wasn’t famous. But because of the way Josh chose to live his life, he’s being remembered for his kind heart.”
Between Wednesday and today, Stevens will visit all the schools in Dayton, and Silver Springs Elementary School, sharing the message: Be Kind.
He also hosted a town hall meeting Wednesday evening to involve the community in the initiative.
“If everybody buys into this simple message, it can’t help but impact an entire town,” Stevens said. “It really is encouraging a culture of kindness.”
The Josh Stevens Foundation was formed shortly after Josh died in an accident in 2008.
While Stevens and his wife, Barbara, and Josh’s brother and sister knew him to be a sweet boy, they were shocked by newspaper and television coverage about Josh after his death. Stevens said Josh’s classmates, teachers, friends and even business owners in their Henderson hometown spoke out about the way the boy had touched their lives.
“They were doing stories about this 12-year-old boy who was kind,” Stevens said. “We knew that about him, but we didn’t know the whole town knew.”
Now, the Josh Stevens Foundation’s program, Be Kind, is in more than 300 schools nationally. A children’s book, “Oh My Gosh, Josh,” was published about his acts of kindness. A playground at a school in Uganda was named in his honor.
“My little boy has left a legacy,” Stevens said. “Josh is going to be the kid who sparked a kindness revolution.”
Stevens encouraged the students to think about their own lives, how they want to be known to those around them.
“It’s not too early or too late to start thinking about your legacy and how you want to be remembered in the world,” he said. “Being a kind person might be as important a thing as anything else you’ll ever be.”
It doesn’t mean they can’t have flaws, he told them. Josh did.
“When we went to Hawaii, Josh got in so much trouble by his mom and dad there,” Stevens said. “Josh was not perfect. But Josh was kind.”
As part of the program teachers and staff will wear “Be Kind” T-shirts on the first and third Wednesdays of each month. Students caught in acts of kindness will be rewarded with silicone bracelets, and then be eligible for larger prizes.
Students and other members of the community also will be able to purchase the T-shirts.
Stevens said he’s received thousands of messages from people who’ve heard the presentation and were moved to action.
He hopes the same will happen in Dayton.
“It’s my hope that one kid walks out of here today saying, ‘I think I’m going to be kinder,'” Stevens said.
David Wells, 11, may be that one.
“I really feel bad for what happened to Josh,” David told Stevens. “I would like to be like him someday.”
On the Web
For more information on the Josh Stevens Foundation, go to joshstevensfoundation.org.