How performing little acts of kindness is helping grieving parents move forward.

Joanne Cacciatore's daughter, Cheyenne, was stillborn in July 1994. She says it was the worst day of her life.

Photo via Joanne Cacciatore, used with permission.

She briefly held her baby girl in her arms, but that was all the time she'd get with her.


It was then that Cacciatore decided to dedicate her life to helping parents like herself deal with grief.

But first, she had her own grief to contend with. She says in the months that followed, she couldn't stop crying and found parenting her other three children to be an impossible task.

That Christmas, which would've been Cheyenne's first, Cacciatore took the money she would have spent on presents and did something a little different with it. She bought a bunch of toys for underprivileged kids through a local charity.

"And in that moment [Cheyenne] was very much alive, because my love for her continued, and I was able to enact that love in the world," she told Yahoo! News.

That's when she first became aware of the immense healing power of giving. From there, she started The Kindness Project.

The Kindness Project asks grieving parents to do good deeds in their communities in memory of a lost child (or parent, friend, or spouse).

They then leave behind a small note card so the recipient can channel their gratitude toward the deceased and know that person's life and death continues to matter.

All photos provided by The Kindness Project.

Cacciatore says so far, over 2,000,000 acts of kindness have occurred because of the project around the world.

There's Kamaria McDonald, who donated toys, baby supplies, and more to a domestic violence shelter in honor of her late-son, Dane.

There's young Mackenzie's mother, who paid for and left two giant stuffed animals for some unsuspecting kids at a Kohl's in memory of her daughter.

A first-grade class in Richmond, California, wrote kind notes to their neighbors in honor of Teddy, a young boy who died of cancer.

Michael's mom donated basketballs to her local community center in honor of her son, who loved to shoot hoops.

And then there's Ann, whose story has stuck with Cacciatore for many years.

Ann tragically lost her baby, Joshua, to sudden infant death syndrome. One day, at one of her favorite restaurants, Ann stumbled across a young pregnant woman enjoying a baby shower. In her grief, it was almost too much to bear.

Ann headed for the door, feeling confused, overwhelmed, and inexplicably angry at this complete stranger. But "she paused, took a deep breath, took out a Kindness Project card, wrote Joshua's name on it, pre-paid the bill of the shower party in full, and called me weeping," Cacciatore wrote in the book Techniques of Grief Therapy.

It was a painful thing for Ann to do but an important step in her healing process.

The Kindness Project's Facebook page is flooded with incredible stories of giving — from cups of coffee to massive donations.

As beautiful as it is for a stranger to experience an unexpected act of kindness, the project is really about parents finding constructive ways to heal.

"While these good deeds do not eradicate grief, nor should they do so," Cacciatore wrote, "They do provide a means through which the mourner can redirect painful emotions into feelings of love and compassion and hope."

Losing a child is one of the most difficult things a person can go through. Cacciatore just hopes that all of that pain and suffering won't be totally in vain, and we remember that every life deserves to be remembered, no matter how short it might be.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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