LYNNFIELD — A local teen’s efforts to promote kindness are beginning to grab state and national attention.
Connor Wright, 13, started an organization called Connor’s Kindness Project in 2021 with his grandmother Sharon Marrama. His goal was to support children facing challenging situations including medical conditions, mental health crises, and poverty.
Initially, Wright and his grandmother created kits for health care workers at his dining room table in January 2021.
“Then he said to me, ‘What can we do next?’” Marrama said. “We sat down and we decided it was going to be a kindness kit.”
Around 250 kindness kits were distributed at several hospitals and shelters in Massachusetts during the project’s first year.
Since then, Connor’s Kindness Project has delivered around 3,000 kindness kits to children in need across New England, partnering with more than 30 organizations including Shriners International, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston Children’s Hospital in Peabody, and the state Department of Children and Families.
In May, Wright and his foundation were selected as one of the 40 entries to secure a fellowship through the Riley’s Way Foundation’s Call for Kindness competition.
Christine O’Connell, the executive director of Riley’s Way, said around 200 projects were submitted from all across the country.
“I think the idea for (Wright’s) project is beautiful,” O’Connell said. “He’s been doing this, he’s proven his success with his project, and has grown his project … and at such a young age.”
Wright’s 12-month fellowship includes $3,000 in grant funding and mentoring.
“Being able to learn from like-minded people made me want to pursue it,” Wright said. “It goes beyond that … it will be a really big help to us in all areas of our nonprofit.”
In June, Connor’s Kindness Project received recognition at the State House as a finalist for the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network’s Nonprofit Excellence Award.
Companies including Lego, Play-Doh, and Learning Express Toys of Lynnfield have donated items for kindness kits, which include around $75 worth of items ranging from Etch A Sketch toys to socks. All of the items in the kits are handpicked by Wright for children ages 5-12.
Wright said he has received positive feedback from not just organizations, but also parents of children who have received kindness kits.
“That’s one of the things that keeps us going and wanting to do more,” Wright said. “Them saying how much it helped their kid get through something … it’s special to us.”
Connor’s Kindness Project, a registered 501 c3 organization, has grown into a team of over 20. Members include volunteers, interns, and teen ambassadors. Kits are put together in Wright’s great-grandfather’s basement. More than $100,000 has been invested into the project through donations and grants.
Wright, an honor-roll student who is starting at the Middlesex School in the fall, said he’s amazed at how quickly his project has grown.
“It’s not this small little project anymore, it’s a big thing,” Wright said.
Marrama said she sees her grandson’s work continuing its momentum to expand beyond New England.
“We used to say, ‘One day we’ll be national,’” Marrama said. “I think we’re going there.”
This year, more than 3,000 kindness kits are expected to be distributed.
The organization also launched an initiative in January called the Kids Kindness Club. The initiative has entered 10 local elementary schools, encouraging students to perform acts of kindness. Marrama said it has led to around 80,000 acts of kindness from students.
Connor’s Kindness Project has plans to expand its distribution to include an essentials kit to support teens, as well as a backpack kit with back-to-school essentials.
“There are big plans here,” Marrama said. “I don’t see this going away.”