Outside of American Airlines Arena in downtown Miami a young man in a giant black and white penguin suit walks around offering concert goers free hugs while wearing a huge sign around his neck that reads: “U R Awesome!”
Kemy Joseph began his U R Awesome not for profit organization as a way to pay it forward for the encouragement he received from mentors and friends prior to embarking upon his college career. Today he has over 30 active volunteers.
The group recently celebrated their two year anniversary by driving around in the “Awesomemobile” and stopping at area children’s hospitals to give away U R Awesome t-shirts and teddy bears.
“When I was about to graduate from Homestead High School there were so many people who believed in me and told me I could do anything I put my mind to. I was blessed with so much support that when I got to college I decided to do something to give back.”
Before U R Awesome began Joseph joined a “Random Acts of Kindness” group during his first semester at the University of Miami. “My involvement with the group really showed me the value of being kind to complete strangers. To be there in a physical space and offer someone a hug, a compliment card or just simple encouragement changed my life for the better.”
Eventually Joseph went on to a leadership role in the club and came to realize that if he was to be serious about his commitment to spread positivity in a troubled world it had to develop into more of a personal lifestyle.
“I really took the ideals to heart and over the summer worked on being okay with myself to such a degree that I was able to transform and build the confidence to expand the Random Acts of Kindness initiative. I just started wearing signs around campus. U R Awesome was the first one. Some others were Smile and Be Happy, Love Who You Are, Keep on Living and You Will Make it Through This.”
Joseph became inspired by the incredible spontaneous reactions affected in the actions of others. “After seeing how people reacted it really added fuel to the fire, people would come up to me and give me a big smile or a thumb’s up. I was told on several occasions how the signs really helped someone get through a bad break up or a bout with depression. It was amazing, and so boom, U R Awesome was born.”
The signs evolved into t-shirts, the not for profit 501 c 3 organization U R Awesome was created by Joseph and fellow UM students and the group began working with the Miami Rescue Mission to give out used clothes to the homeless in addition to hygiene kits, and a free hot meal.
“That first year we collected over 11,000 articles of clothing and were able to directly help a couple of hundred homeless people that day. The second year we got better organized and worked with the Miami Rescue Mission in what we now call The Great Give Away. It became a personal shopping day where everyone that benefited got treated like human beings no matter where they came from.”
U R Awesome has now gone global with Joseph making presentations in New York City recently at the Images and Voices of Hope (ivoh.org) Conference. He also visited Haiti bringing awesome signs written in Creole to share hope and inspiration. “These ideas have been around a long time. Growing up I wasn’t too kind and I realized it was because things I didn’t love about myself translated into things I didn’t love about others. As I began allowing myself to receive help from others I was able to see how much love was out there.” To check out the awesome message of the day and find out more about U R Awesome visit URAwesome.org or contact Kemy at 305-707-7344.