Cool & Dope
If living well is the best revenge, then Cavanaugh Bell may just be having the best life ever.
After facing bullying at school, rather than internalizing the pain or trying to get even, the spirited 7-year-old decided to channel his energy into something positive instead.
“After I was bullied and I felt a darkness inside of me, I knew I didn’t want other kids to feel the same way I felt,” Bell explained via his GoFundMe page. “So, I asked my mom if she could help me spread love and positivity. And, the more I gave back to my community, the more I wanted to keep doing it.”
Bell lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland with his mom, Llacey Simmons, and their extended family. Even before the bullying incident, the second-grade good samaritan was already doing his part to give back during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Initially funded by his own savings, Bell started out by assembling and distributing care packages filled with food and toiletries for his elderly neighbors. Over time, the popular project snowballed. With contributions pouring in, he and his mom launched a food pantry staged in space donated by a local warehouse.
In the face of negativity at school, Bell’s determination to remain positive only became stronger. Hoping to expand his message of compassion beyond the confines of his own community, Bell set out to find a place where residents would benefit most from his message of hope.
Spurred by memories of a 2018 Mount Rushmore road trip he’d taken with his mom that led them through South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, he knew he’d found his answer.
“My mom explained to me that people live on the reservation, and some didn’t have what they needed to survive,” Bell told the Washington Post. “Some of the houses didn’t have electricity or running water.”
With a steady stream of in-person donations, as well as contributions from his GoFundMe and Amazon Wish List pages, Bell and his mom have managed to amass enough essential supplies to fill a 53-foot semi-truck—twice.
His mom used some of the donated funds to hire a driver. She also reached out to Alice Phelps, the director of First Families Now, a nonprofit humanitarian organization whose focus is bettering the lives of families and children on the reservation, to apprise her of her son’s plans.
“He believes he can save the world, and I believe him. He just carries that, ‘Well, no problem, let’s do it,’ and he doesn’t see anything as a challenge, so I love that innocence about him,” Phelps told People.
The first shipment that went out in July was loaded with nonperishable food and cleaning supplies, as well as shoes, clothing, and diapers. With the cold weather approaching, the second shipment in September also included coats and blankets.
“It’s just a blessing to be helping them,” said Bell, whose heritage is in part Native American. “I’m trying to make sure they have what they need to survive, cause that’s their only land and… they’re [like] my family.”
In addition to his humanitarian aid work, Bell has also launched his own nonprofit, Cool & Dope (an acronym that stands for “considering others’ obstacles in life and dish out positive energy”). The organization’s mission is to combat bullying and spread positivity through acts of kindness.
Bell says he hopes to see bullying totally eradicated by his 18th birthday—ten years from now. While 2030 may be a decade away, with Bell’s pluck and persistence, he just might reach his goal—and continue to inspire others and live his best life in the process.
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