#ApartNotAlone challenge showcases random acts of kindness during pandemic

Friends of Johnson County Mental Health Center launched the #ApartNotAlone challenge to draw attention to all of the positivity happening in Johnson County. Photo courtesy Shana Burgess.

To help bolster spirits and positivity — and promote mental health care — Friends of Johnson County Mental Health Center recently launched the #ApartNotAlone Challenge, a contest that encourages residents to create and share artwork, imagery and videos that encapsulate the spirit of that hashtag.

As weeks of physical distancing and isolation from the COVID-19 pandemic pass by, Friends of Johnson County Mental Health Center noticed hundreds of random acts of kindness that show love and support for friends, family, neighbors and essential workers.

The campaign also aims to combat the negative effects on mental health that arise from physical distancing and self-isolating at home — like fear, anxiety, loneliness and depression.

“One of the things I’ve said early on is we need to shift our conversation from social distancing to really talking about physical distancing,” said Tim DeWeese, director of Johnson County Mental Health. “While it’s imperative that we physically distance ourselves from one another, we need to find ways to stay socially connected.”

Overland Park resident Pam Boyd left bubbles and candy out at the end of her driveway for neighbors to enjoy. Photo courtesy Pam Boyd.

Residents are already rising to the challenge by showcasing ways their friends, family and neighbors demonstrate random acts of kindness.

A family member challenged Overland Park resident Pam Boyd to participate, so Boyd set a basket of candy and bubbles on a chair at the end of her driveway for children and their parents to enjoy.

“There was one mother and her small daughter who not only stopped for bubbles, but stayed in my driveway to open the bottle,” Boyd said. “The little girl danced and laughed while her mom blew the bubbles for her to chase. I watched them from the safety of my front door but my heart was just overflowing with joy.”

Neighbors have left notes for Boyd thanking her for the bubbles and candy. She has many other fond, encouraging memories to share, like the painted rocks she finds at North Park near her home, virtually teaching the two children of her niece, an essential worker, and participating in car parades in front of the homes of people who go to her church in Merriam.

Artists are painting rocks and scattering them around North Park for passersby to enjoy. Photo courtesy Pam Boyd.

“There’s no better time now than to take care of each other,” Boyd said. “By doing small acts of kindness for others, I found that I receive back tenfold the joy that is missing from my life right now.”

While parts of the community shift to relax or lift stay-at-home orders, individuals and organizations will still practice physical distancing in various degrees. That’s why DeWeese hopes residents, especially teens and young adults who utilize social media, will keep connecting with #ApartNotAlone and sharing the good that comes out of it.

“We have to stay apart from one another, but we are not doing this on our own,” he added.

The challenge kicks off Mental Health Awareness Month for Friends of JCMH. The organization has other activities planned for this month, such as the Socially Connected concert with Una Walkenhorst on Friday.