The Child Who Founded a Non-Profit to "Spread Love and Positivity"

After being bullied at school, 7-year-old Cavanaugh Bell founded Cool & Dope to spread awareness about bullying and youth suicide and help his local community

29.10.2020 | by Reve Fisher
Photo by Cool and Dope Foundation via Facebook
Photo by Cool and Dope Foundation via Facebook

According to the National Centre for Educational Statistics, one out of every five children in the United States report being bullied, and over 40 percent of those who’ve suffered bullying at school believe it will happen again. These children are at a higher risk of depression, anxiety, sleep problems and even dropping out of school.

When 7-year-old Cavanaugh Bell found himself to be the subject of bullying, he took that pain as inspiration to help others, founding the Cool & Dope Foundation to spread awareness about youth suicide and bullying prevention. Cool & Dope is an acronym for: “considering others’ obstacles in life and dish out positive energy,” according to The Washington Post.

He wanted other kids to know that they “can have an impact—no matter their age.”

“After I was bullied and I felt a darkness inside of me, I knew I didn’t want other kids to feel the same way I felt,” he stated on his organisation’s GoFundMe page. “So, I asked my mom if she could help me spread love and positivity.

“And, the more I gave back to my community, the more I wanted to keep doing it.”

Through Cool & Dope, Cavanaugh and his team of “Positivity Creators” are fighting to stop bullying, with a goal to end it by 2030. The volunteers lobby with lawmakers, educators, policymakers, and members of local communities to spread awareness. The nonprofit also creates educational resources for parents and students and supports victims through outreach and advocacy efforts.

As part of Cool & Dope’s efforts, Cavanaugh has advocated to designate February 21 as Bullying Awareness Day in his hometown of Gaithersburg, Maryland and October as Bullying Prevention Month in Montgomery County, Maryland.

However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, Cavanaugh wanted to his use platform to spark even more change.

When the outbreak shook the world in March, Cavanaugh used his savings to create care packages for the senior citizens in his local community. The idea came to him when he realised his grandmother was in the high-risk group; he then wanted to help her and other elders stay safe.

“One day I was thinking about my grandma and I was like ‘Oh, mommy she shouldn’t be going out to the grocery store because it’s coronavirus season,'” he told CNN. “‘She’s my best friend.’ ”

Once news spread, the care packages become a community effort with local donations. After receiving even more donations, he opened a food pantry alongside his mother. A local logistics company let him use its warehouse facilities, and several companies have offered food and supplies, from hot meals to paper towels.

His efforts have gathered nationwide attention, even a conversation with Democratic vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris in May 2020.

With the success of the food pantry, Cavanaugh decided to go beyond his local community to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

“My mom explained to me that people live on the reservation, and some didn’t have what they needed to survive,” Cavanaugh told the Post. “Some of the houses didn’t have electricity or running water.”

According to The Washington Post, at least half the population in the area lives below the poverty line, with estimates putting the figure at closer to 90 percent. The life expectancy of residents in the reservation is the lowest in the entire country, and the teen suicide rate is 150 percent higher than the national average. According to Alice Phelps, director of a nonprofit on the reservation called First Families Now, the reservation has declared a state of emergency due to the increasing number of suicide attempts,

More donations came in—enough to fill a semi-truck with non-perishable foods, toiletries, cleaning supplies, and other items. The first truck was sent in July was so well received that Cool and Dope decided to send another in September.

“I wanted to do more stuff for them to make them happy,” Cavanaugh explained. “Since winter is coming, I knew they didn’t have what they needed to stay warm, so I asked people to donate blankets, jackets and winter supplies.”

As of October, he has helped over 8,100 people.

“A lot of families we helped in the beginning have actually come back and volunteered, and consistently brought us donations every week,” said Llacey Simmons, Cavanaugh’s mother. “The cycle continues of us blessing people, and they come back and bless us tenfold.”

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