A giving spirit throughout the year
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A giving spirit throughout the year

Jane Orend will speak about her 2014 book This is Waterloo Region at the Wellesley Township Heritage and Historical Society meeting on January 26. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]

If you happen to be the subject of a good deed this winter and receive a white rubber bracelet with the words ‘Pay it Forward,’ make sure to do just that.

Nancy Runstedler holds up her first non-fiction book, a look at kids across North America who make a difference.  Part of the revenues from book sales will go to the Pay It Forward Foundation. [Elena Maystruk / The Observer]
Nancy Runstedler holds up her first non-fiction book, a look at kids across North America who make a difference. Part of the revenues from book sales will go to the Pay It Forward Foundation. [Elena Maystruk / The Observer]
It’s a philosophy that Wellesley-born author Nancy Runstedler has taken to heart, chronicling the trend in her recently published book Pay It Forward Kids: Small Acts, Big Change, a look at the positive deeds of real youths in North America.

“One thing I really noticed is that there is so much doom and gloom in the news and everywhere you look that I really felt that people needed and wanted to hear more good news stories, that there wasn’t a better time to share good news,” she said this week.

“You see social media stories going viral, they are always good news stories like somebody helping somebody else or something really cute or nice or heartwarming. I really felt that the world was tired of all the doom-and-gloom.”

This is Runstedler’s second book and the second to be published this year. Her teen novel Beautiful Goodbye came out in July, with the new one released last month.

“I thought about sharing true pay-it-forward stories because of knowing about Pay It Forward first from the fiction book by Catherine Ryan Hyde then the movie and the foundation.”

Both book (1999) and movie (2000) chronicle the journey of American seventh-grader Trevor McKinney who sets out to make a difference through a charity based on a network of continuing good deeds. A very real-life reaction to the novel and movie began a movement and in turn fostered the Pay It Forward Foundation set up to start a ripple effect of good acts in the world.

From a book of fiction and magic to a biographical look at real teens, it was a big jump for Runstedler.

“I had thought about [writing about] adults but I changed my mind. I felt that kids are the future and I wanted to showcase kids that were out there doing some good rather than all of the negative stuff you hear and the bad rap that they are getting.”

She sifted through hundreds of emails, assuaged dozens of parental concerns and ultimately had to make some difficult decisions:

“I could have filled volumes: there are hundreds if not thousands of kids doing good things,” she said.

Ultimately the stories of 14 kids ranging in age from 9 to 19 were chosen.

“They’re all different ages, all different backgrounds and all different religions. And I wanted that because I wanted to show that it was a universal thing – it’s not just rich white kids. I wanted to show the different ages too. I’ve been absolutely amazed and inspired by these kids and I’m truly honoured that they allowed me to be their voice and put their stories in a book,” said Runstedler.

A percentage of all book sales (the book can be bought or ordered from most bookstores in Waterloo Region) go to the Pay It Forward Foundation. Just like her first work of literature, Runstedler’s Pay It Forward Kids is dedicated to her mother Margaret Evalyn Runstedler, a devoted Wellesley volunteer and resident who died in 2011 at the age of 69.

“She was the first person who taught me kindness and she was known in Wellesley for her kindness. Her life was a living example of pay it forward. I didn’t want that to end because she’s gone.”

Runstedler reminds to pass the bracelet on after a good deed is done and remember that acts of kindness don’t just happen at Christmas.

“We all need to do something nice for somebody,” she said.

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