​Congratulations Columbia on being named a Reader's Digest


Kindness Changes Everything

I had the privilege to work as a school nurse for 20 years and believe services to promote both mental and physical health are vital for our families.  I am proud of the Children’s Grove movement to promote the message “a single act of kindness can change a life forever”.  It symbolizes how everyone in a community can unite and make a difference each day.  

I serve as an Outreach Counselor with Columbia Public Schools and provide crisis intervention in the school setting. In the Fall of 2016, I began sponsoring HOPE Club at RBHS. The overarching goal of HOPE Club is to provide mental health awareness and resources for suicide prevention while promoting a culture of kindness and healthy coping skills for the improved emotional health of all RBHS students. When looking for programs to help our students respond with effective skills to support peers with mental health needs, I stumbled onto Children’s Grove as they pay for (junior and senior) students to receive Youth Mental Health First Aid Training! I quickly began volunteering and recruiting youth kindness ambassadors with Children’s Grove and look forward to continued promotion of kindness in our schools and community in order to protect and nurture the emotional and mental health of CoMO youth!

​Mental Health remains a subject most people find difficult to talk about, and making room to be well in our busy society is not easy.  As I learn how to identify early warning sign, and educate other to do the same, I feel a great deal of hope for our children and youth well-being, so they can enjoy life, realize their own potential,  learn to cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively, make contribution to their communities,  and be happy!

As a mother of three and grandmother of seven, I am fiercely concerned about the world in which we live.  We continue to experience tragedies stemming from those struggling with mental health issues.  The Children’s Grove has pledged to make a difference in our community through education and action.  This organization is committed to promoting and celebrating kindness through daily acts, and through planting kindness trees in our community that serve as a living symbol of our commitment.  In addition, I am so proud that our group is able to offer education to individuals, families and groups in our community to help all know how they might assist those who are experiencing a mental health issue that could result in violence to oneself or to members of the community.  This is vital information that can keep our community safe until professional help can be administered.  I am so proud to have been a member of the board of the Children’s Grove since its inception, and to now serve as a member of the advisory board.  My plan is to continue to do my part to keep our community safe, while our organization serves as a model for the rest of the state and nation.  We can and will change lives.


One of the most important things in the world for me is to be an excellent model for my daughter. Children’s Grove exemplifies the attitude, attributes and character that I want my daughter to see in me and definitely emulate as she grows up in a world that can always use a little more kindness. Being able to participate in Children’s Grove activities and outreach has definitely improved the world around me and given me another way to teach.

After the shooting at Sandy Hook where 20 children and six staff members were murdered, I knew I had to respond. The concept of Children’s Grove is a perfect match for my passionate desire to promote positive mental health for all, but especially for today’s children.  We must  put an end to bullying, hatred, destruction by encouraging a community of civility, kindness, empathy and general positive public mental health for all.  Michael and I planted the first six “kindness” trees at the University of Missouri; by doing so, we honor our six grandchildren who we hope will  grow up in a world of love, kindness, peace, and harmony.  

Madison Hopper
Youth Kindness Ambassador
Rock Bridge High School 

Children's Grove Volunteer Spotlight

James W. Melton, President
Coordinator of Fine Arts
Columbia, MO Public Schools

Suzanne McDavid

Retired Public School Nurse

My first experience with Children’s Grove was through my mom who was working hard petitioning and campaigning for the Boone County Children’s Service fund so mental health needs could be addressed in Boone County. This growing interest and encouragement from Mrs. Deaton motivated me to get involved with INTERACT and Children’s Grove. The act of Kindness effort is especially appealing to me and I can feel and live it in my school. It is an inspiring concept with great value as a small act of kindness can go a long way in our lives. From there, becoming a Children's Grove Youth Ambassador gave me more opportunities to work with wonderful people and push kindness into our community. ​​

Karen Chandler

Parks and Recreation 

My participation with the Children's Grove began as the idea of planting the grove of trees at Stephen's Lake Park was developing. As an employee with the Columbia Parks & Recreation Department, I was asked to help with the dedication of the grove. During the planning meetings I met all the wonderful people behind the idea, and their enthusiasm and compassion for supporting children's mental health drew me in. As we create and manage programs for kids throughout the department, we continue to look for ways to support both physical and mental health and as a member of the Children's Grove I can help connect programs. 

Lesley Thalhuber, Rock Bridge High School

Outreach Counselor

Lael Van Holt

Yash Pal Khanna
Youth Kindness Ambassador
Rock Bridge High School 

I became involved with Children's Grove  because I fell in love with their Random Acts of Kindness theme. Every small action makes a big difference. We don't have to do huge heroic actions all the time. Any spontaneous high-five to someone who looks lonely, holding the door for a friend behind you, or even just a smile to someone who needs it. (Trust me, you can never go wrong with a smile!) I've seen kindness change lives and make a positive impact to everyone it reaches. Kindness is inspiring to me. With the help of Children's Grove, we can all work together and make our community a kinder place! 

My professional career combined mental health, family life, and young children’s care and education.   Children’s Grove provides the opportunity to encourage  kindness and improved mental health, essential components for making Columbia an even better community.  The opportunity to join in this positive, preventive approach is a wonderful volunteer opportunity that allows me to continue working with others who care.

The Children's Grove goal of promoting mental health awareness and education is a commendable one that I share. After many professional years in mental health, I am keenly aware of the importance of enhancing the health, mental health and social well-being of our community's children and youth.
Acts of Kindness really do make a difference, and the Children's Grove is an excellent pathway.

Mary Jo Herde, Ph.D.
Asian Affairs Center and Semi-retired

Alejandra Gudiño
Diversity Coordinator FNEP-Extension

University of Missouri Mental Health First Aid Trainer
Paula and Elena’s mom

Rose Porter
Retired Dean of the School of Nursing, University of Missouri

Julie Middleton
Retired Director of Organizational Development,
University of Missouri Extension