By Hannah Maine

An interview with Francine Sumner, founder of Kid in the Corner.

What is Kid in the Corner? 

Kid in the Corner (KITC) is an organization dedicated to shattering the stigma around mental health and supporting the kid in the corner, whoever that may be.

We do this by educating and spreading awareness, promoting contagious kindness, and connecting the community to resources.

We go into schools and teach kids about how to reach out to each other, take care of their own mental health and be safe and caring people that others can talk to.

We do this with the “Penny Pledge”. Zach was a coin collector and pennies were his specialty. By wearing pennies around our necks, on our key chains, or on our backpacks, we have a physical reminder to reach out, to be kind, and to show people that they are not alone in this struggle.

Can you tell me a little bit about why you founded Kid in the Corner? 

After Zach died, I knew something had to be done to shatter the stigma and get kids talking about mental health. I knew they needed access to reliable resources and an individual call to action if anything was going to change.

Can you tell me about Zach? What was he like? What were his efforts to reach the kid in the corner? 

Zach was one of the kindest people ever. He always reached out to the kid in the corner. Growing up, Zach’s best friend was Jake, a kid with autism. Zach loved and supported him all through their school years. He always made welcome baskets for new neighbors, brought homework to friends that were sick and missed school, and was an advocate for animals. His empathy was unrivaled but also made him feel alone in the end, as it wasn’t reciprocated on the same level.

Kid in the Corner focuses a lot on kindness? Why do you think promoting “contagious kindness” is important to end the stigma of mental illness?

Kindness is a coping mechanism. It is proven to increase serotonin levels and is a win/win for the person being kind and the recipient of kindness. It is a necessary culture shift if we want to change the way we think not only about mental health but how we treat ourselves and others in general.

What are some ways that Kid in the Corner promotes kindness? 

We have 4 big community kindness events every year. We have monthly kindness themes, promote kindness on our social media accounts constantly, and do kindness activities in schools.

How can people spread more kindness?

A great way to spread kindness is by painting kindness rocks! Lots of organizations do this, but we started for a very specific reason. Right after Zach died, my daughter was out with a friend at dinner. She was distraught and having a terrible night. When she left the restaurant, she looked down and there was a rock that said, “you’re stronger than you think! Pass it on”.That rock had such an impact on her! The power of kindness whether in person or anonymous can save a life.

What are other programs or initiatives of Kid in the Corner?

We work hard to provide comprehensive resources to individuals. We host parent presentations and are increasing our kindness events. We help schools to start KITC clubs/initiatives on campus, and we have a youth leadership group.