For seven-year-old Cavanaugh Bell, the coronavirus pandemic offered a prime opportunity to spread positivity, while showing senior citizens how much he truly cares about their wellbeing. The Gaithersburg, Maryland resident kicked off a growing coronavirus campaign, by using $600 of his own money to begin purchasing hygiene and cleaning items for seniors.
The forward thinking first grader is also a social justice activist who implements his ideas to improve the community through his nonprofit called Cool & Dope. Cavanaugh started the organization in 2019, after he was told that he was too young to volunteer.
Cool & Dope is an acronym, for ‘Considering Others’ Obstacles in Life, Dish Out Positive Energy.’ That is exactly what Cavanaugh is doing with help from his mother and the nonprofit’s executive director, Llacey Simmons.
“My grandma is my best, best friend and it is important to make sure our senior citizens are taken care of because they took care of our moms and dads when they were growing up. A lot of times people forget about senior citizens, and they live their life all alone, and that makes me very sad for them,” Cavanaugh said. “I always take care of my grandma and sometimes she is very strict with me, but I love her so much and I want her to be taken care of. I also think about her friends who don’t have family to visit them, and so I want to just spread the love I have in my soul to all of them.”
The mother and son team illustrates that even in the midst of crisis situations, youth can still come up with ideas and make a difference.
Simmons explained that making coronavirus care packages was Cavanaugh’s idea, after considering the effect that the pandemic could have on his 74-year-old maternal grandmother.
“She has COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and does not have a car or easy means to get to and from the grocery store. On a trip to see her to get her items from the store, Cavanaugh asked if we could buy more to help the other seniors in her community,” Simmons said. “To do this, he asked if he could use the savings that I had put aside for him over the last few years. That’s how it started. We used the money to get the items from Target, and he recruited his teenage cousins to help him package the items and distribute them to seniors the next day.”
So far, 78 care packages have been put together and distributed to senior citizens who reside at Hillside Senior Apartment Homes (Hillside) in Gaithersburg, in addition to 31 hot meals, which were also delivered.
Kendra Dickerson, Regional Marketing Manager for the Franklin Johnston Group, remarked that Cavanaugh’s organization has been amazing to the seniors who reside at Hillside. She added that in this climate, some seniors feel forgotten, but Cavanaugh has a passion to lend a hand with a smile on his face.
Additionally, enough food to feed 90 students who attend “So What Else” program in Rockville, Maryland was distributed. Cavanaugh and his mother remain on the move, in spite of challenges of maintaining social distancing requirements and meeting the sanitation concerns.
“His savings covered the initial care pack assembly of 68 packs. He had $78 left over that covered a portion of the meals. Donations covered the other $125 for the food as well as the $145 for the food for the 90 students. We are now solely working on donations that have come in since Friday last week.”
“We’ve been very conscious of wearing gloves and keeping things sanitized as much as possible. For the care packs, we left most of them at the door for the elderly residents to get them later,” Simmons said. “When we shop out in the public, we do our best to keep our distance from people and usually do one large store run, instead, of multiple smaller store runs. And lots of hand washing!”
Cavanaugh’s proactive attitude is capturing attention from across the country. Donations are still being made. The public’s financial response to Cavanaugh’s call-to-action will enable him to make more care packs to provide meals, groceries, and assistance to senior citizens and youth in need during the pandemic.
“I’m so thankful for everyone who donated and supported me. I couldn’t do this without you and I know together we can pull through this,” Cavenaugh said.
Not only has Cavanaugh stepped up during the pandemic, but he has made it his mission through Cool & Dope to inspire kids to take a stand and speak out against bullying and working toward eradicating it by his 18th birthday in November 2030. Cavanaugh was once bullied, but he explained that he tries to tell himself positive things, and not let haters bother him, because he knows he has good in his soul.
“I learn from him (Cavanaugh) everyday about what it means to help others selflessly,” Simmons said.
“When the coronavirus season is over, I am going to make more speeches to raise awareness about bullying to get that to stop by 2030. For now, I’ll just keep making care packs, and hopefully inspiring people to do the same thing for the senior citizens in their communities.”
For more information about Cavanaugh and his campaigns, visit: www.coolanddope.com.