People Are Carrying Out 318 Random Acts of Kindness Across Boston

Cathy O'Grady and volunteers are going to blanket the city with good deeds.

Photo via Reddit

Photo via Reddit

Cathy O’Grady wasn’t planning on being identified. But somehow, the media caught wind of her random acts of kindness all over the city this winter after pictures surfaced online of dozens of blankets with $5 gift cards she left out for the homeless.

“It was me,” she admitted. “Somebody squealed on me. I’m not bummed, but I didn’t put it out there for me to be found. But I’m not bummed about it. If I can motivate other people to help out, that’s the purpose of all this.”

For the last two years, O’Grady, a Watertown resident, has been popping into Boston and trying to help the homeless—and other people that reside here, whether it be nurses, veterans, or kids—by giving them bags of goodies filled with food, toothpaste, warm socks, and even scarves.

Her latest venture in early February during the stormy winter weather that left mounds of heavy snow on Boston, was to bring blankets to James Michael Curley Park near Faneuil Hall, marked with personalized notes, to keep those without a home warm as the frigid temperatures continued to drop. A photo of the blankets taken by a passerby quickly went viral as people tried to figure out who was behind the act of kindness.

And although it wasn’t intentional, O’Grady was soon found out.

But now, O’Grady, who funds her projects through donations and sales from her side gig as an online jewelry retailer, is kicking it up a notch and is planning to hit the streets of the city to bring additional kind deeds to other folks roaming around during the blistering February weather. And she is doing it in 318 different ways.

On Friday, February 28, with the help of a woman she met through Facebook, Colleen Wogernose, O’Grady will be placing free Charlie Cards around Boston, leaving scratch tickets in random locations, buying strangers cups of coffee, and delivering 250 “survival kits” to nurses at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “I never thought it would spread this much when this all started,” she said, adding that her efforts to help the homeless kicked off when she saw a man walking around the city using a trash bag as a coat. “I was heartbroken by that. I felt like there is no human that should ever have to wear a trash bag as a coat.”

Her latest mission with Wogernose and friends was inspired by the death of Wogernose’s husband, Chad, who came to Boston to get treatment for a rare form of cancer called Ewing Sarcoma. Wogernose, who is from Wisconsin and has never met O’Grady in person, is flying up to the city to help carry out the 318 acts of kindness, one for every day that her late husband fought the battle against cancer here in Boston before he passed away.

“I had come across her husband’s Facebook support page, ‘Chad’s Fight,’ and reached out to her to create a pendant and donate all the profits to the family. She was thrilled and we slowly started communicating. Soon after, Chad lost his fight with cancer and we continued being friends,” said O’Grady.

The random acts of kindness for this project are funded by Superheroes Fighting Cancer, a non-profit organization. According to O’Grady’s blog, here are just a few acts they have planned for this Friday in Chad’s memory:

At the children’s hospital and the local grocer, we will be placing sixty quarters on the machines for kids to enjoy, and will be giving area restaurants fifty packs of gum to hand out to patrons when they deliver their check. To end our amazing day together, we will pay for three meals for random people while we’re out. Additionally, we have decided to hand out 250 ‘survival kits’ for nurses to show appreciation and boost moral, and 150 care packages to the Thornton and Naumes House, the Hope Lodge, and the Beacon House—all lodging facilities for adults with cancer.

“It’s not just for the homeless anymore,” said O’Grady. “It has really snowballed into something bigger.”

O’Grady said she hopes that her actions will inspire other people to give back, reach out, and basically “pay it forward” to make the community in Boston a better place to live. “I think it has worked already,” she said, referencing dollars bills that a stranger randomly attached to a set of scarves she recently laid out for homeless people in the area.

A picture of the money on the scarves ended up in her Inbox, but O’Grady told the person who sent it that she couldn’t take credit for the deed.

“That wasn’t me that did that. So how cool is that?,” she said.