A great blend of caring and friendly fun, TKO is no religion, company, charity, or institution, but rather a loose collective of friends and like-minded activists. Instilled with the urge to spread smiles and kindness across the globe, in 2008 the three founding members headed out to see what they, as ordinary people, could do to make the world a better place.
Fast-forward to the present, and the initiative has twice treated all kids stuck in London’s hospitals to a free toy, repeatedly provided van-loads of food to every one of the capital’s soup kitchens, and held joyful tea parties for old-age pensioners. Over the course of just five years, goods worth around 4.5 million British pounds have found those who need them most – plus a vast number of impromptu and individual surprises like flowers, champagne, and gold medals for those caught in the act of being kind.
“We are amazed that, from our very small beginnings, we have risen to become the world’s largest performer of random acts of kindness,” David Goodfellow, one of the founders, explains. “From what I’ve experienced over the past few years, I can say: anything is possible!“ At the same time, TKO has no formal structure – a core group of eight comes up with the initiative’s ideas and coordinates all related activities. At the same time, literally anyone is welcome to join TKO by simply performing an act of kindness or attending one of the events. And by persuading big corporations to part with mountains of goods, TKO helps those in need and inspires others to get involved.
All of this is achieved without any external financial support: You won’t find a Paypal button or call for donations on the group’s website. Instead, TKO inspires individuals and companies to contribute goods, manpower, and time to the cause. While some of the helpers prefer to remain anonymous, others welcome the PR boost and like to feature their logo on the TKO bus or campaign posters. David Goodfellow adds that “we are proud to have the support of a large number of people, including many key politicians, religious and community groups, companies large and small, as well as so many large news outlets. Kindness is infectious and, having caught the bug, we are actively spreading it as far as we can!”
Open to input from all sides and persuasions, the multi-faceted initiative has been growing in leaps and bounds while turning kindness into a celebration and participatory sport. Dressed in their trademark fluoro jackets and helmets adorned with a smiley face, and armed with confetti cannons and balloons, they launched a charity crusade that has spilled far beyond the British Isles.
Most recently, TKO opened a free bookshop in a former pub in London’s district of Camden. The carefully renovated location invites people to browse more than 100.000 books. All works can be taken away, with no obligation to return them. Many volunteers helped with the restoration, happy to play a part in establishing a new community hub.
Coming up, the nationwide ‘Teddy kindness’ campaign aims to equip all police vehicles in 43 UK districts to a free teddy bear. A cuddly helper in tricky situations, from traffic stops to domestic violence, the stuffed toy might come in handy when officers deal with crying kids and could use something nice in their arsenal to distract the youngsters.
Also in the pipeline: a new iteration of the ‘Rucksack initiative,’ with free school bags for kids in London’s most deprived boroughs, plus the – by now almost traditional –Christmas toy giveaway scheme offering welcome treats to some of London’s most underprivileged children.
Giving enriches – and these guys’ smiles prove it!
Text: Romy Uebel
All images, incl. the header image: (C) The Kindness Offensive