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Since its founding six years ago in Carlsbad, the Great Kindness Challenge has expanded to more than 10,000 schools nationwide. Courtesy photo
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Don’t expect weather to dampen Great Kindness Challenge

CARLSBAD — In six years, the Great Kindness Challenge has exploded on to the national scene.

From its humble roots in the dining room of Kids for Peace Co-Founder Jill McManigal, the weeklong celebration has emerged as a national presence.

And the group’s next celebration kicks off at 2 p.m. Sunday at Tamarack State Beach, rain or shine, McManigal said.

While some of the plans are up in the air, due to the expected inclement weather, including Carlsbad Unified School District administrators with Superintendent Dr. Ben Churchill and surfing legend Rob Machado surfing waves (of kindness).

Always the optimist though, McMangial said the human formation, which will spell “Kindness Matters,” is still on. She said at least 1,200 people are needed and encourages all to brave the weather and attend.

In addition, a camera crew from ABC’s “Good Morning America” will tape the opening ceremony and air the footage next Monday.

“Rain or shine, we’ll be there,” McMangial said. “We have pop-up tents for all our activities. We are assuming the rain will come and go.”

The weeklong challenge began six years ago at Jefferson, Hope and Kelly elementary schools in Carlsbad. Since then, the list of schools has swelled to more than 10,000 in the U.S. and more than 10 million students worldwide participating.

Students engage in a kindness checklist of 50 items to be performed throughout the week.

“It was created for a school environment that was more kinds, more compassionate and more inclusive,” McMangial explained. “We wanted to be proactive in that. We found kids had this checklist. Students are completing kind act after kind act and elevating their school culture.”

As for the rise of the program, McManigal said she is surprised about how fast the Kindness Challenge has become adopted throughout the country.

“It spread to 264 schools the second year and has spread mostly through word of mouth,” she added. “The theme is always kindness.”

Churchill, meanwhile, has been a great addition since taking over for Dr. Suzette Lovely as the district’s superintendent, McManigal added.

Churchill said he’s excited for the week to begin and even picked up a new hobby to prepare for the kick off — surfing.  Churchill, who is from outside Chicago, had never been on a surfboard until several weeks ago. He has been practicing for the past month, but said he still isn’t sure if the staff and Machado will be able to paddle out.

Nevertheless, he is grateful he only had to learn how to balance on a surfboard. Lovely skydived last year.

“I lucked out. This year, the superintendent is jumping on a surfboard and jumping into the water. I think I got the better end of the deal,” Churchill said. “It’s worldwide now. It’s really cool that it started here in Carlsbad. But what really is important is that no matter where you live, you can do acts of kindness.”

Also expected to perform are the Carlsbad High School drumline and national champion xCalibur Dance Team.