Random Acts of Kindness

Valuable lessons and bike surprise for adults and students

March 29, 2019

When approximately 66 employees from Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) gathered together on March 29th for a day of teambuilding, they had no idea what the outcome would be. BI teamed up with L.E.A.D. USA, a national team-building organization based here in CT, to use bike building as a teambuilding exercise for their employees as well as promote service to the community. The BI employees spent the morning working in small teams to assemble a child’s bicycle from a box of parts. Without written instructions, they had only each other and an incomplete tool box with which to achieve their objective.

Unbeknownst to the group from BI, five first grade classes at Park Avenue elementary school recently participated in a Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) program, an initiative created by L.E.A.D. USA, and delivered as part of their Bike Building Program. For two weeks, 110 first-graders journaled about the nice things they did and how it made them and others feel. Throughout the process, it was never disclosed to the students that they may receive a bike or reward of any form through their participation in RAK. The objective is to teach and inspire RAK because "it's the right thing to do" as a member of a community not because there is something in it for them.

First-grader, Katie shared, “I helped my teacher pass things out to the class. She felt happy and I felt good.”

“I saw Xander’s writing folder on the ground. I got it and gave it to him. He was happy. I was happy,” wrote Phillip.

Tatiana journaled, “I gave my mom her purse. She said thank you and I said you’re welcome. She hugged me and I felt happy that I helped my mom before I went to school.”

Upon completion of the RAK journals, teachers at Park Avenue school reviewed them and selected 16 students that not only reflected the philosophy of everyday kindness the most, but also display kindness all year long. The students were told they were going on a special field trip.

Richard Kuepper, president of L.E.A.D. USA, ran the bike build with his support staff, Sheila Giampa. After the BI group spent the morning learning that collaboration leads to success while assembling 16 bicycles, the first graders entered the room and surprised the adults during an exercise that Kuepper led about ‘knowing your customer.’ In order to get their input, Kuepper asked the students, “What do you do to be a good team member?” They gave a variety of responses including, be kind to your team, be nice to your friends and help each other.

David Krafick, principal of Park Avenue School, explained to the BI team that students at the school celebrate kindness and power manners all year long so this program ties into what they continually practice.

“In first grade, students are learning fundamental skills and it is important to promote kindness, particularly at that age,” Krafick said.

Kuepper asked the children what they thought they should do with the newly assembled bicycles. Their ideas included selling them or giving the bikes to kids in need. When the students were told that they were going to be the recipients of the new bicycles, they gasped in astonishment, clapped and excitedly jumped up and down. They were also surprised with a safety helmet and lock to which the first graders used their power manners to respond with a resounding “Thank You” to the adults.

Another key component of the program that L.E.A.D. arranged includes educating the new bike owners on important safety information. Sargent Antonelli along with Officers Zalenski, Cameron and Morrill from the Danbury Police Department were on hand to properly fit the helmets and review bike safety tips with the students.

Antonelli also reminded the students, “You are here because you are kind, but you will be rewarded for your kindness your whole life.”

After a group photo and the children had left the meeting room, Kuepper led the BI participants through a thorough debrief on the team building experience, tying the lessons learned back to the real world of business and the importance of keeping their ‘customers’ preeminent throughout their planning, execution and interactions.

“Understanding your customer challenges you to produce the safest and highest quality product possible” says Jimmy Person, BI Pilot Plant Technician. “This event was one of the best days of my 29 year career at Boehringer.  “We knew we were making bikes but not for whom. It was very touching to see the excitement and joy from the kids and I felt honored to be able to contribute in a positive and meaningful manner.”


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