From solving the city’s hunger crisis to leading a peace movement for kids, we’ve found some of San Diego’s biggest helpers at spreading kindness and providing much needed essentials and services to the community––and they all happen to be parents. Read on to learn about San Diego moms and dads who are making a difference––and see how you can join their movement.

Julie Rais Ellis/Rais Case

Julie Rais Ellis is the mother of two and the founder of Rais Case, which started as a bags and accessories collection and has since expanded and grown into a movement. She's passionate about designing the highest quality products that cultivate community and culture around locally handmade goods. The Rais Case team pivoted when Covid-19 struck and they began to utilize their local manufacturing resources to create high quality face masks and bandanas. Shifting production to high quality face masks felt like the perfect way to help out a community that was struggling to find them. Ellis explains, We quickly realized we couldn’t keep up with the demand our wonderful Rais Case community requested. As a solution, we reached out to our handbag production partners to see if they could make our face masks. Because we are an USA made brand with local manufacturers, we could train our handbag cut & sew team in person, get them materials and get into production immediately.  We had online orders and direct orders from many San Diego based corporations wanting to equip their frontline employees with face masks. We also wanted to help the front line workers in need of masks and implemented a donation campaign. Our goal was to donate masks to medical workers including doctors, nurses, and staff. We have donated masks to emergency rooms, diagnostic pathology labs, pediatricians, infectious disease departments to name a few. Customer purchases directly supported our ongoing efforts to donate masks to those on front lines. We are proud to have sent thousands of masks to hospitals and medical clinics locally and across the nation.

Ellis offers, Our relationship with our community is where magic happens. Our co-op shop doors are open 7 days a week. This is where you can find a curated collection of local handmade goods as well as our Do It Yourself table. The DIY table is designed for customers to create personalized leather goods from our scrap leather (appointments now required).

Our mission is simple but focused. It is to make quality goods that create community & support well-being.

Connect: Shop Rais Case here and don't miss the Rais Case's current collaboration with another local, beloved SoCal brand, Sakura Bloom.

Charles & Linda Van Kessler/Passion 4 K.I.D.S

Passion 4 K.I.D.S. (Kids In Desperate Situations) is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit charity dealing with handicapped, neglected, abandoned, abused and underprivileged children of any race, color and creed as well as children in acute, life-threatening, emergency situations in the United States.

Founders, Charles and Linda Van Kessler, have a passion for kids – their kids, other people’s kids, kids that are hurting, kids that are “special” – any kid! That’s why they created Passion 4 K.I.D.S.

With economic hardship, families unraveling, serious childhood illnesses in epidemic proportions, etc., Passion 4 K.I.D.S.’ mission is to focus on children in the United States that need help. These precious little ones have been given very heavy burdens to bear, through no fault of their own – some with life-threatening illnesses, some with abusive homes, some with life-altering accidents caused by others’ irresponsible actions. Each one deserves our best efforts because each one counts.

Charles and Linda reflect, “We hope we can be an example of two very ordinary people – no prior experience in setting up a non-profit, middle class with few resources, helping with situations we previously knew nothing about – who stepped out of our comfort zone to let God interrupt our life with a purpose and mission we are passionate about, yet totally inadequate in our own strength to accomplish. We have learned over and over when God gives the vision, He gives the provision.”

Connect: Passion 4 K.I.D.S invites you to join them on their God-given journey of trying to make a difference – one child at a time! Donate here. There are no salaries taken out of any of your donations. 100% of all donations go directly to the children’s needs

Dana Williams & All the SuperParents Behind Feeding San Diego

Dana Williams is the Director of Marketing & Communications for Feeding San Diego and the mom of two young girls, Charley (10) and London (7). Dana was inspired to join Feeding San Diego because she didn’t feel that it was right that one in eight people in San Diego County face hunger, including one in six children, when more than 40% of all food produced in the country is wasted.

Feeding San Diego is a hunger-relief organization on a mission to connect every person facing hunger with nutritious meals by maximizing food rescue. The organization provides more than 26 million meals to the community every year and 97% of that food is rescued. By diverting more than 25 million pounds of high-quality food from going into the landfill, Feeding San Diego is helping to avert more than 23,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent from going into the atmosphere each year (comparable to taking 5000 cars off the road).

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Feeding San Diego has seen a 50% increase in need for food assistance and many people are accessing their services for the first time. From March 14 to July 31, Feeding San Diego provided more than 12.8 million meals to the community, an increase of 43% compared to the same period the year prior. The downturn caused by the pandemic has exasperated the hunger crisis in San Diego, requiring Feeding San Diego to step in to provide emergency services to assist those affected, in addition to the hundreds of regular food distributions they already host across the county.

While it has been a challenge working full-time for a hunger-relief organization during a pandemic with two young children at home, Dana knows the work she is doing is making a difference in the lives of those facing hunger while also helping the planet.

Feeding San Diego is fueled by the hard work and dedication of so many parents. Also on the organization's media team, Allison Glader has two young sons. Additionally, the Director of Programs, Dana Henderson recently had a baby, the Director of Development Ali Colbran has a one year-old and the Facilities Manager, Clint Dooley has young children too, just to name a few staff members. Further, Feeding San Diego has more than 14,000 volunteers who support their efforts each year, and many of them are parents who bring in their children to help sort produce, etc. 

Connect: To learn more about Feeding San Diego, to find food, or to discover ways you can help address the hunger crisis in San Diego County, go to feedingsandiego.org.

Jaime and Marie Brawn/Homestead Solana Beach

Serving the San Diego community has taken on a new meaning for local business owners and parents of two young boys, Marie and Jaime Brawn, operators of local catering company Root Cellar Catering and cafe/market Homestead Solana Beach. In the midst of keeping their own concepts afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Brawns and their partners The Burt Family Foundation created ​+BOX​, a collaborative initiative providing essential nutrition to K-12 families in their local school districts, free of charge.

+Box provides weekly boxes of healthy meal kits with groceries and essential items to create a meal for a family of four. Since early April 2020, more than 1,800 ​+BOX kits have been distributed, side by side with the existing school lunch meal programs. +Box began a partnership with the Encinitas School District bringing the meal kit boxes to their pick up locations for families on the reduced lunch program. As the school year ended and the need for access to healthy meals grew +Box added both the Carlsbad and Solana Beach school districts to their distribution.

The + Box model is also zero waste, with unsold produce from Homestead’s market and provisions placed in the boxes. With the hope to grow +Box into a 1:1 charity, such as the Tom’s model, where for every box purchased a family will receive a box, the Brawns along with the Burt Family Foundation are seeking to grow +Box to more districts and help more families in need.

Connect: Visit +BOX online where you can learn how to support their work and donate a +BOX to a family in need.

Lisa & Ricky McCabe/Lovely Leaps

More than just a dance studio, Lovely Leaps is a movement of its own. Studio founders Lisa and Ricky McCabe started Lovely Leaps when their daughter was just five months old. Lisa's goal as a dance instructor is to offer a whole child approach to help grow kids' (ages 10 months-10 years) confidence and comfort in their own bodies. She believes dance should focus on fun instead of perfection and she stresses inclusion. The love of dance is what will take your child to the next level, not perfection or the way they look.

Lovely Leaps Dance Studio is keeping the rhythm alive through free virtual classes and the dream that one day these classes might connect kids across the country and all over the world. Lisa McCabe offers, "We have been so blessed during this season, we have virtually taught over 1000 students and had a socially distant in-person dance camp! The future of Lovely Leaps is our fun themed virtual classes, and when it’s safe we can’t wait to open our studio doors back up."

You can find Lovely Leaps' virtual studio on their website along with their free virtual classes on Thursdays. They hope to open the doors of their San Marcos and Solana Beach studio locations as soon as possible, allowing only 5 kids in a class at a time. 

Connect: Sign up for virtual classes at Lovely Leaps.

Steven James/Finesse Skateboard Decks

Steven James was passionate about art, anime, comic books, and video games growing up. Now, he creates special licensed graphics on skateboards, accessories, and apparel. His company Finesse encourages youth to follow their dreams and supports talented skaters from coast-to-coast. Finesse offers special skateboard collections featuring licensed and non-licensed graphics from anime, video game and comic book properties. Art is directed, designed and illustrated by Steven James. The Collection can be found online and at fine retailers worldwide. Pressed out of San Diego, California, Finesse Skateboards are built to last and great for all skill levels.

James tells Red Tricycle, "We have monthly skate sessions at skateparks around San Diego County. We encourage local skaters at these parks to follow their dreams and passions in life. God has a plan for us all, on and off the skateboard. We give out free skateboards, skateboard equipment, fruit, snacks, water and Tech Decks to youth in need at Skateparks and Schools."

Connect: Support Finesse Decks so they can continue to make a difference in the lives of San Diego youth. See the Finesse deck collection here.

Cat Kom/Studio SWEAT

Cat Kom started Studio SWEAT onDemand’s Youth Channel to help get kids excited about health and fitness. But once COVID-19 hit, and most of us found ourselves stuck at home, Cat realized just how necessary it was to have workouts designed for kids, teens and even some parents can do with their toddlers! These classes were filmed before the pandemic hit, and many were filmed with local kids at Y’s right here in San Diego.

Cat tells Red Tricycle,

"Keeping our kids active is so important these days. With all of the rules and mandates constantly changing, children need a consistent and constructive way to release their energy and stay positive, while things like team sports and after-school activities are put on hold. We are thrilled to be able to support our community, and kids around the nation in this way. And as for the parents’ sanity, our brick-and-mortar studio is still teaching outdoor classes, to give those moms and dads a much needed break while staying fit, getting out of the house, and engaging in their local community.

And, for those looking to work out from home, Studio SWEAT onDemand’s library of streaming workouts is the perfect way for anyone to stay fit in the comfort and safety of their living rooms. Members can sign up for an All Access Pass, which gives them full access to our huge onDemand workouts, from rejuvenating Bedtime Yoga to calorie-crushing High Intensity Bootcamps.

We’ve also partnered with local YMCAs to help them offer our streaming fitness service free of charge to their members––to lift their spirits, keep them healthy, and deliver the experience of real group fitness classes they know and love."

Connect: Check out Studio SWEAT's on demand youth classes for kids here.

Kristen Lucas/The Well Community for Women

Kristen Lucas founded The Well Community for Women with a mission we can all appreciate: to serve families in San Diego with affordable workspace and to host events for women with childcare always included. The Well's community events for all include business workshops, paint nights, health and wellness seminars, fitness classes, and after-school classes for kids (hope to resume one day soon)! This fall The Well will have a small distance learning class for school-aged kids available Mon.-Fri. so moms can come for a few hours and get work done or meet a friend and have help with the new virtual learning. 

Paying it Forward: The Well has businesses that are community partners as well as private donors who help underwrite all of this to keep prices low and so they can offer scholarships to women/kids in need and to eight other nonprofits they partner with. Lucas says, "Ultimately, our goal is to encourage and serve women in our community in their businesses and lives!"

Connect: Learn how you can partner with The Well to provide their resources including workspace, support groups, kid’s programs and special events to women in need for free.

photo: Carol Areas/Word Rocks Project

Carol Areas/Word Rocks Project

Carol Areas, creator of the Word Rocks Project tells Red Tricycle, "Almost ten years ago, my only son had the idea to paint rocks with positive words and, in his own words, "spread them all over the city to make people happy. That’s how The Word Rocks Project was born."

Areas adds, "He is now 19 years old, being challenged by his first college years as a young man diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. We have continued to spread joy this way for the past nine years. With all the recent changes in the world, I see my Craft with a Purpose Workshop for kids taking a long-term leave.

To keep things rolling, I created my Art+Kindness box. In a world that can always use more art and kindness, my brand new box exists to spread some magic around. In fact, it’s a mission that I've been doing for the past ten years and that now is available for you to do as well! With 10 items, from rocks to clay rainbows, from postcards to felt birds, my Art + Kindness box has the goal to help you spread kindness & magic through art abandonment.

Send a box to a kid to help them start to understand the idea of compassion and kindness through art being abandoned to bring joy––or to have something special in hand to give it to a teacher or a friend. Buy a box to spread the love in your community and make it a special place for your neighbors. Planning a trip? Make it extra special by leaving bits of joy wherever you go.

My goal is simple: connect many, inspire & empower others to join us in creating a kinder world.

By ordering a box, besides supporting my kindness projects, above all, you are making this world a better place through art + kindness."

Connect: Email Carol to order a box at: wordrocks.me@gmail.com. The Art + Kindness box is $29.99 + $8.30 (flat rate for small box).

Jill McManigal/Kids for Peace

Jill McManigal is the mother of two and co-founder of Kids for Peace, an organization that aims to uplift the world through love and action. Their mission is to "empower kids to create peace through hands-on service, global friendships and thoughtful acts of kindness. Our vision is a safe and peaceful world where all people respect and care for each other and our planet. Kids for Peace serves as a model and inspiration for creating this reality with children leading the way, not only for today, but for generations to come."

Wondering how to get involved? Become a member of the Kids for Peace Giving Society to support their mission.

Connect: Your kids (grades 2-8) can join Club Kids for Peace, a weekly virtual after school program. Here they'll connect with peers and learn how to open their minds and hearts for the greater good.

––Beth Shea

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