A-Ok Lady Brings Message of Kindness to the Campus District
(top) Susann Castore in full Kindness Ambassador attire. (bottom) Castore shares a handful of smiles. Photos provided by Susann Castore.
Last month, the “A-OK Lady” paid a visit to the Campus District, bringing with her a message of kindness and a large supply of small plastic smiley faces.
Susann Castore, a self-proclaimed Kindness Ambassador, is the founder of HopeScapes 501(c)(3), an outreach program created to help individuals find motivation to overcome obstacles and make meaningful connections with others. Early this year, Castore embarked on a journey across Ohio as part of the Kindness Exchange Campaign. Her mission: to connect people from all walks of life through compassion, hope and kindness.
Over the course of her campaign, Castore has given talks at community festivals, homeless shelters and mental health facilities all over the state. She won’t hesitate to share her message with people she passes on the street. Her bright red cape, floral pants and giant cardboard smiley face may seem off-putting at first. However, after a few minutes of interaction, it’s easy to sense the passion with which she works and to feel the warming effects of her message.
Castore’s stop in Cleveland brought her here to the Campus District. She shared her kindness and good cheer during a visit to the Cleveland State University Office of Civic Engagement.
“She pointed to a sticker on our door that has a dove on it, and then pointed to a dove charm on her necklace,” said Jessica Colombi, Manager of Project Facilitation for the Division of University Engagement. “She said, ‘It was meant to be that I stop here to see you.’” Jessica continued: “I wasn’t sure what she was talking about and thought it a little strange for a stranger to be so friendly, but I really appreciated her ‘pitch’ for kindness. Surely we could all use more of that!”
The Columbus native begins her outreach effort by asking an individual if she can offer them an “A-OK” (act of kindness). She then presents her new acquaintance with two small plastic smiley faces – one to keep, and one to give away. The smiley face is meant to remind us that we’re all capable of smiling and finding happiness in life. Castore hopes that as more people share the smiles with others, her message will continue to spread and make a difference.
Castore knows firsthand the importance of finding joy and purpose in everyday life. She’s experienced over 20 years of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. She has been hospitalized many times and misdiagnosed for many years. After finally being correctly diagnosed as bi-polar, she’s had the chance to receive proper medication and find balance in life. Now she’s dedicated to helping others achieve the same happiness she’s found.
Castore is very open about her past and her experiences. She hopes her story can inspire others to face their demons and to share kindness whenever possible. There’s no doubt that many Clevelanders are passing around more smiles than usual thanks to her.
To find out more about Susann Castore and the Kindness Exchange, visit www.thekindnessexchange.org.
Donna Dieball is a recent graduate of Cleveland State University and the editor of the Campus District Observer.