This moving story of kindness in Harrogate will really warm your heart

Sometimes you just never know what a person is going through - that person passing you in the street who looks perfectly fine could in fact be fighting a hidden battle, or dealing with a really difficult time in their life.

Thursday, 27th February 2020, 11:51 am
Updated Thursday, 27th February 2020, 11:52 am

The death of TV presenter Caroline Flack has once again really shone a spotlight on the importance of being kind to one another and just showing some awareness of what someone might be going through.

Kindness can be an anchor for us all - a natural quality that can ground us and bind us all together, producing a strong sense of community around it.

Sometimes it is the small gestures and kindness shown by strangers that can mean even more - when we have families and friends surrounding us, but also have an additional network of support from people who might not even know us, that can feel even more comforting.

Vic Smith-Dunn, Laura and Paul Morrison, and Michelle Williams with more inspiring baby bundle appeal volunteers.

Being kind already comes naturally to the Harrogate district and residents across North Yorkshire, which is why the Harrogate Advertiser, in partnership with North Yorkshire County Council and sister JPI Media titles in Yorkshire, has launched Salt of the Earth - a campaign which shares examples of the very easy but powerful ways we can all make somebody’s day brighter.

The circle of kindness in Harrogate that is inspiring people of all ages to make a difference

Each and every one of us holds the power to make a difference and inspire others, and in the six days he blessed our earth with his presence, baby Jack Morrison, born 13 weeks prematurely, has made the same impact in his short precious life as someone who has lived for 100 years or more.

Jack’s mum and dad, Laura and Paul from Killinghall, are among the group of kind-hearted volunteers who meet to make up bundles of essential baby items to give to Harrogate and York’s special care baby units, supporting other families whose babies have arrived unexpectedly early.

Passionate about helping others in Jack's memory: Paul and Laura Morrison.

The kindness of the founders of the baby bundle appeal and all of its volunteers inspired Laura and Paul to get involved and give back, and they have also launched a JustGiving page to raise funds for equipment at York’s Special Care Baby Unit where Jack and themselves were looked after, raising more than £4,000 in the process.

But the memory of their precious little boy and the outstanding levels of care and kindness he received will always be the main inspiration for showing such devotion and generosity with their time.

If ever there is a perfect example of how a whole chain of kindness can form in and around our community, it is this - Jack has inspired his proud mum and dad, family, and scores of volunteers who want to give back through fundraising or making baby bundles; then there are the kind-hearted founders of the baby bundle appeal who have inspired others to help, and of course at the root of it all are the amazing special care baby units themselves, whose kind staff go the extra mile and inspire people to do kind things to say thank you to them.

Jack’s mum Laura said: “Despite only being here for a short time, we are determined that Jack will have the same impact as someone who has lived 100 years or more. We plan as a family and with friends to continue to raise money in his name, knowing that this is what Jack has been able to do for other people who find themselves in vulnerable and challenging positions.

Michelle Williams and Vic Smith-Dunn, who run the baby bundle appeal in Harrogate.

“The staff who work at the Special Care Baby Unit are real-life angels. They are superhumans who inspire you to be better, to do more for those around you. Most babies who have to visit the Special Care Baby Unit at York or Harrogate will go on to lead long, healthy lives, but during their time on the unit any extra help that can be given to supporting the team is hugely beneficial.

“Through physical donations at events where we make the baby bundles, or monetary through JustGiving that will purchase larger items for the ward, we hope to support the Special Care Baby Unit journeys of as many babies as is possible.”

Vic Smith-Dunn, who runs the baby bundle appeal with Michelle Williams in Harrogate, said all of the baby bundles are made with love, and the items contained within them - such as toothpaste, nappies, breast pads and sanitary wear - while all normal and everyday things - can represent a total lifeline to families.

Vic said: “It is those tiny fundamental things that we can take for granted. You have got so much to worry about when you have that transition of one minute going about your day-to-day life, and the next minute having the adrenaline and the emotional experience of giving birth to a child - so to then not have to worry about those little things is a big thing.

A buzzing hub of the community: the baby bundle appeal at Oatlands Community Centre.

“You don’t want to have to take time away from your baby, to leave hospital and go to a supermarket to buy things, you just want to be present and focus 100 per cent on spending precious time with your newborn and making the most of it.”

On a rainy Thursday night, Oatlands Community Centre was a buzzing hub of activity last week, as dozens of residents from Harrogate and across the district, ranging from as young as 14, right up to those in their late seventies, turned out to make baby bundles - to date, since the appeal was launched, nearly 300 bundles have been made, representing hundreds of waves of kindness sent out to special care baby units.

The baby bundle appeal is not only helping families at the Special Care Baby Units, a whole community and natural culture of kindness is growing from it.

Vic said: “All of these gifts, taken together, amount to something way bigger. We had a room full of people communing together to help families they will never meet. Sometimes kindness from a stranger is so meaningful - you might already be surrounded by family and friends, but having an even wider network of people pulling together can really comfort and uplift you.

“Through the most difficult times in our lives, to know that you are supported and surrounded by love and care from loved ones but also people you don’t even know, and to know you are not alone, is so valuable.”

The baby bundle appeal continues to go from strength, with new strands of support emerging from it all the time - including galvanising knitters in the community to make blankets, and the social aspect that it creates, in turn tackling issues such as loneliness in the town.

The blankets can become precious and lifelong treasures for parents supported by the baby units, who can keep them as a reminder of the memories they have shared with their newborn babies. And for those who are bereaved, a blanket can carry the scent of their baby, and bring everlasting comfort as a parent-baby connection.

Vic said: “It’s about being mindful to be kind. If everybody made a decision to be kind once during the day, what a difference that could make. All of these little acts of kindness add up and make a big difference.”

Email [email protected] to find out more about supporting the baby bundle appeal by donating or volunteering, or call Vic on 07970 521495. To help Laura and Paul raise funds for York’s Special Care Baby Unit in Jack’s memory, visit: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jackarthurmorrison

New support for the Salt of the Earth campaign

Saint Michael’s Hospice, which helps people affected by terminal illness to live as full a life as possible.

The hospice’s chief executive Tony Collins, said:

“It’s fair to say that our hospice care charity simply would not exist without kindness. This includes the kindness of our supporters who, through donations, fundraising, and gifts in their

wills, help us provide our vital services to local people living with terminal illness and bereavement; the hundreds of volunteers who are involved in every aspect of our care; and the everyday kindness and caring nature of our staff. We in the Harrogate district are fortunate that our local community has so many kind-hearted people who are dedicated to helping others and showing such heart-warming generosity of spirit. Simple, everyday acts of kindness can make a huge difference to peoples’ lives."

Artizan International, empowering and supporting people with disabilities in the UK and the developing world, creatively.

The charity's UK Programmes Officer Liz Cluderay, said:

“How important it is to always be kind. If you see someone standing alone in the playground away from the chatty mums, go and say hi. It could transform their day. It doesn’t have to be an invitation to be their new best friend. Just a few minutes of polite conversation. A little kindness is more powerful than you think.”

Get involved in the Salt of the Earth campaign

Have you done something kind that you feel proud of, or know someone who has? We would love to hear all about it. Email: [email protected] to get in touch.

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Our amazing Salt of the Earth nominees so far...

This heartwarming story of friendship in Ripon shows the power of kindness____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________