Charlie Kern, an 18-year-old senior at Grafton, North Dakota High School, was diagnosed with autism at age 2. This month, Kern expressed his gratitude and appreciation to the school’s staff – including teachers, janitors, secretaries, and bus drivers - through a group photo in the school gym. In honor of World Kindness Day, the staff members received T-shirts from Kern with the message “Be Kind to Everyone.”
Jackie Moore, a friend of Kern’s mother, Janice Kern, provided the shirts. Moore is the mother of a child with autism herself, and became connected with Ms. Kern through their involvement with the nonprofit organization Talk About Curing Autism (TACA). The incentive for the project began last summer, when Moore helped her daughter keep busy by packaging and organizing T-shirts for a project dubbed “Jordyn’s Summer Shirt Project.”
Last Spring, Moore visited Grafton and delivered presentations on autism that were extremely well received. Seeing the warm response, Moore decided to donate the T-shirts so that Charlie could benefit the same way her daughter had. In carrying out the project, Kern gathered the orders for T-shirts, took sizes, folded them, and delivered them to each staff member individually. Janice Kern noted that the project prompted Charlie to step outside his comfort zone by interacting with staff members.
“We’ve been surprised by the things he does well,” she said. “We realized there’s something new every time we’ve given him an opportunity.”
Charlie also distributed “Be Kind to Everyone” items this month at his parents’ dental office, where a banner with that slogan is currently on display.
In addition to spreading the message of kindness, Janice Kern says the T-shirt project has allowed her son to give back to the people who helped him in his final year of high school.
“It was a great way for him to be able to not only practice job skills, but to give something to so many people who have been a huge part of his journey to his final year of high school,” she said.