White Rock resident Debbie Riopel says she played a part in bringing Random Acts of Kindness Week to Canada.                                 Aaron Hinks photo

White Rock resident Debbie Riopel says she played a part in bringing Random Acts of Kindness Week to Canada. Aaron Hinks photo

How a murder led to Random Act of Kindness Week

White Rock woman played part in introducing Random Act of Kindness Week to Canada

Random Act of Kindness Week, which is now celebrated around the globe, was first introduced in Canada after a random act of violence.

Barb Danelesko was murdered in Edmonton in 1994 in the middle of the night while her husband and children were asleep. It was a home invasion gone wrong.

Colleen Ring, a Grade 2 teacher at the time at Edmonton’s Mary Hanley Catholic Elementary (a few blocks away from the murder scene), saw the impact the murder had on the greater community and the students in her classroom, her sister Debbie Riopel, a White Rock resident, told Peace Arch News Wednesday.

While many people responded to the crime by increasing their home security, Ring “chose to respond to a random act of violence with a random act of kindness,” Riopel said of her sister, who still lives in Edmonton.

Riopel said that her sister started a program in her school called Kids for Kindness. Students were rewarded for acts of kindness and were assigned projects that promoted kindness.

Riopel, who was also a school teacher in Alberta at the time, said kids started to positively respond to the curriculum.

“We could see that when you put the emphasis on kindness and positivity, there’s a change in the students. Then, the parents would say there’s a change in the kids when they came home. That, really, kept us going,” she said.

In 1996, Riopel and her sister approached the then-mayor of St. Albert, Anita Ratchinski, to ask for a week to be proclaimed as “Random Acts of Kindness Week,” the first of its kind in Canada.

“The game plan was simply to bring awareness and optimism and action to the public,” Riopel said.

The committee was successful in their effort, and soon after, cities across Canada started to follow suit.

Later that year, Riopel and her sister received a letter from a small kindness movement committee in Japan, inviting the women to attend a conference in Tokyo. The women agreed, and went to five consecutive conferences over the following five years.

“That was a game changer,” Riopel said, adding that the movement started to take on a life of its own in the following years.

Riopel said the World Kindness Movement was founded in Tokyo in 1997. In the following years, Riopel and her husband, Mark Broscheit, travelled to more than 15 countries to film a documentry, highlighting the “goodness of the human spirit.”

“You look at the phrase (Random Act of Kindness), it’s kind of like a permission, in a way. I think that’s how the people of Edmonton took it,” Riopel said.

This year, Riopel, along with the Oneness Gogos, have scheduled a planned act of kindness for the launch of Random Act of Kindness Week Feb. 11.

The Gogos, which is a charity group that raises funds for grandmothers taking care of orphaned children in Africa, will donate books and give thanks to the Write to Read volunteers in South Surrey.

Write to Read, which stores boxes of donated books in five storage units in South Surrey, works to build libraries in remote rural First Nations communities.

Libraries are housed in donated portable trailers, modular buildings and repurposed buildings. Since 2015, the organization has built 10 libraries.

Although the Gogos act of kindness is one that is planned, Riopel offered some suggestions for those who might be curious about what constitutes a random act of kindness.

It can be as simple as holding a door open for someone, or, she suggested, scrolling to your oldest text message and reaching out to that person.

“It’s all about people connecting,” she said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

South Surrey’s Paul Cottrell, who works with the DFO, tows a grey whale out of Semiahmoo Bay Sunday. (Contributed photo)
Dead whale floating near White Rock towed to shore for necropsy

Animal has been dead since at least April 15

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
BREAKING: Toddler marks youngest British Columbian to die related to COVID-19

Child one of eight people to die from virus this weekend

Vehicles line up for the Greater Vancouver Drive-Thru Food Truck Festival at the Chilliwack Coliseum parking lot on March 27. The touring event comes to Cloverdale this weekend, April 24-25 (Photo: Jenna Hauck/Chilliwack Progress)
Here are the food trucks coming to Cloverdale for a drive-thru festival this weekend

Nine trucks will be parked Saturday, nine Sunday during event at fairgrounds

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is a independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Parts of Surrey, North Delta to get AstraZeneca vaccines for people ages 40+

A total of seven communities in Surrey and Delta will be targeted

Delta police were called to a possible stabbing in the 8100-block of Scott Road at around 6 p.m. on Sunday afternoon (April 18, 2021). (Shane MacKichan photo)
Two arrested after man stabbed in North Delta parking lot

The incident took place in the 8100-block of Scott Road at around 5:15 p.m. on Sunday, April 18

Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and vacation bookings are being increased in B.C. (B.C. government)
Out-of-region B.C. vacation bookings, RV ferry reservations to be refused, Horgan says

B.C. extends COVID-19 indoor dining, group fitness ban until May 25

(New Westminster Police)
4 youth arrested after 30-person brawl in New Westminster leaves 1 seriously injured

Police are looking for witnesses who saw the incident take place

Sunday’s storm rocked one of the ferries crossing Kootenay Lake. Photo: Dirk Jonker
VIDEO: Storm makes for wild ferry ride across Kootenay Lake

The video was captured by ferry employee Dirk Jonker

Chakalaka Bar & Grill remains open in defiance of orders from Island Health to close. (Cole Schisler photo)
B.C. health authority seeks injunction against restaurant defying COVID-19 orders

Chakalaka Bar and Grill plans to continue serving customers without public health compliance

The Abbotsford Centre has the ability to host AHL level games if the Vancouver Canucks or any other NHL team chose to move its affiliate to the arena. (File photo)
Abbotsford Centre ready for AHL if right opportunity presents itself

Building recently upgraded glass and boards, schedule would allow for AHL tenant

A defeat Sunday in Kamloops tied up the Giants and Blazers for the most wins this season. Each team has notched seven victories in the B.C. division play unfolding this season on ice in Kamloops and Kelowna. (Allen Douglas/Special to Black Press Media)
VIDEO: Giants record fifth shutout of the season

Vancouver G-Men take down Kamloops Blazers on home ice Sunday, 4-0

Carver Ken Sheen had almost finished work on a large cowboy carving commissioned by the City of Williams Lake to replace the original overlooking the Stampede Grounds when fire broke out Friday, April 18 at his property between Williams Lake and Quesnel. (Pine River Carving Facebook photos)
Cow boss statue destined for Williams Lake Stampede Grounds goes up in flames

Carver Ken Sheen lost the statue, all his tools and his shop in the blaze

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains. (Hansard TV)
B.C. moves to protect employee pay for COVID-19 vaccination

Most won’t need to take time off work, labour minister says

Most Read