SOUTH WHITLEY — Whitko Jr./Sr. High School National Honor Society students Charlie French, Lizz Foutz and Sam Rickerd, along with their NHS sponsor Brandy Smith, traveled west for a Planned Random Acts of Kindness Road Trip.
The trip’s itinerary, planned entirely by the students, meant more responsibility. Each student researched and provided a PRAK, as well as lodging for the evening. Some lodging was provided by the venue where the students chose to stop and help. At other times, plans required working within the constraints of the group budget to find affordable and safe lodging.
The first day of travel included a visit to the governor’s mansion in Madison, Wisc. On the second day, students traveled to Rochester, Minn. Ricerd led the team to a nature preserve and a former immigration hospital’s cemetery. The cemetery was filled with unmarked graves that laid to rest some of the first immigrants in the Midwest. It also provided time for the students to compare and contrast America’s past with the current viewpoints expressed in today’s politics regarding immigration.
As a result, Rickerd chose the grave site as an area for the group to leave better than they found it. Throughout the trip, the students made it a point to help clean up national parks, PRAK destinations, and even around their hotels.
The students also volunteered their time at the Ronald McDonald House at the Mayo Clinic. The group donated inspirational pillowcases they decorated together and helped package meals at a local food bank.
The team then headed toward Sioux Falls, S.D. Foutz was in charge of the activities surrounding Sioux Falls, where she was able to secure free housing at a local YMCA that the students also spent their time cleaning. Foutz arranged for the team to assist with flooding clean-up efforts for the YMCA summer camp.
“It was really nice to know that we could help them out in a big way,” said Foutz. “They were so grateful to have us there, and they didn’t even have a planned volunteer activity for us until the flood.”
“It was very impactful to see the horrible damage caused by a flood of that magnitude, but also to see the smiles on the faces of the camp directors as we gradually improved the conditions of the camp,” said Rickerd.
During their travels, the group also visited Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, and Devil’s Tower.
“Overall, the experience helped me learn how to cooperate with other people who have different personalities,” said French. “I feel that this helped me grow as a person.”
The PRAK-RT carved a path into the west where the group spent their spring break lending a helping hand with random acts of kindness planned all along the way. Leaving a place better than they found it will forever be a mark they have left.