POCATELLO — Local Army veteran Russell Davies admits he made “bad choices,” such as drinking and partying too heavily, upon his return in 2011 from serving in the Middle East.
Davies — the featured speaker at assemblies scheduled for every School District 25 middle school in conjunction with this year’s Kind Week festivities — said kayaking ultimately helped him adjust to life after serving in the military.
Based on his own experience, Davies formed a nonprofit organization, called Professional Transformation Sports Development, or PTSD, that brings veterans from throughout the country to Southeast Idaho to participate in outdoor adventures to help them with their own transitions from military life.
Davies said he’s sharing his story in hopes of inspiring local middle-school students to be kind to each other. Kind Community was founded four years ago by school district parents Courtney Fisher and Rainbow Maldonado to inspire kindness in the our community’s young people.
“Here is my challenge. Everyone who gets something negative said to them, turn around and give five other people a compliment,” Davies said to the students of Irving Middle School on Tuesday. “If somebody tells you that you are dumb, fat, or ugly, go and tell somebody else they are beautiful, that you like their sweater, or whatever it is (you can compliment them on.) You will find it feels so good to have a (positive) impact on somebody’s life.”
Davies enlisted in the Army when was 17. His nonprofit covers airfare and all other costs for participating veterans, who also get to keep the outdoor equipment they use.
Trips are planned around activities such as kayaking, mountain biking, rock climbing and winter snow sports.
He told middle-schoolers that they can accomplish anything and everything they set their minds to.
“You must be accepting of everyone else, understanding that everyone is different, and everyone has a different approach on life,” Davies said. “Make sure you are kind and accepting of everyone around.”
Fisher said Kind Week 2018 showcases the many local resources that are available to help youths deal with the challenges they face. She said it helps youths realize they have an entire community, including business and civic organizations, supporting them and investing in their success, and that the people here love where they live and those who live in the area with them.
Many sponsors help make the festivities possible, including Bingham Memorial Hospital, Mountain View Hospital, Idaho Central Credit Union, Merlins TV, ON Semiconductor, and the Pocatello/Chubbuck Chamber of Commerce and Leadership Program, among others.
Festivities started Monday with a ribbon-cutting, proclamation reading, youth performances and a dance, among other activities.
Fisher said “friendship benches” are being presented to middle schools. She said the benches, which are made of imperfect pieces, are a symbol of reaching out to others and a reminder that everyone is different.
“It’s a powerful reminder to be yourself and be comfortable in your own skin,” she said.
Fisher said the event also included a Kind Community Conversation focusing on the pressures and challenges that youths face. That event took place at the Pocatello City Council chambers Tuesday night.
“We invite parents and community members to join us and learn about our local resources and talk with professional panelists from a variety of backgrounds,” according to a news release. “This open format conversation is designed to help create safeguards for our children and come together in creating healthy and kind communities.”
The Kind Week activities will also include a blood drive from 1 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday in the Pond Student Union at Idaho State University.