For the first time last year, we introduced a program called Caught in the Act (CITA) as a way to recognize the truly generous people that share our daily lives, and we asked you for your help.
Although there are millions of people around the world who strive each day to make a difference through kind acts, a few tend to stand out — not just to us, but to all of our supporters. Knowing this, we asked all of you to submit the name of a group or individual in your own region that had made a significant impact on those around them — whether by offering medical treatment to those living on the outskirts of the city or founding an organization that raises awareness and funds for people with rare disabilities and diseases — to win $3,000 and special recognition, and we were taken aback by the incredible names you delivered.
After reading through each of your submissions closely and considering the phenomenal merits of all, we finally settled on a staff-picked winner.
Mother and daughter team Lori and Shira Rich, of Riverside, California, have made it their mission over the past three years to better the lives of those forced to live on the streets by helping them in a unique way: taking care of not only the homeless, but their dogs as well.
Since starting their nonprofit, Taking It To The Streets with Lori and Shira, Lori and daughter Shira have traveled up to 70 miles a day at times, delivering hygiene and food items and organizing trips to the vet for the furry pals of some of Riverside’s homeless community. After getting them vaccinated, spayed and neutered, micro-chipped, and giving them an all-around clean-up and de-worming, the cheerful canines (and even a few felines) get to head back to their owners where new bedding, treats, toys, collars, and food await them. Of course, the two bring food and water to their courageous owners as well, providing what they need to keep their animal companions by their sides — often the only friends they have outside their tiny circle of cohorts.
“They’re very happy when we show up,” said Shira, in an interview with KTLA reporters last December. “The dogs come running.”
Because of their humble dedication to not only providing for but bettering the lives of the homeless community in their state, Random Acts was more than happy to award Lori and Shira our 2014 Staff Pick Caught in the Act Award.
“There are many things that make us proud,” Lori told Random Acts after receiving news of their award, “and knowing we make the life of a pet and/or their homeless companion just a little bit better is one of them.”
But we weren’t finished yet.
Before closing out the program for the year, we decided to hand over the reins to a few thousand of our closest friends: you. After deliberating for nearly a week over the remaining top contenders, you chose to award a very special woman who took the notion of generosity to a whole new level.
Kansas City-based Stacey Donovan made a truly benevolent choice, despite the physical and emotional stress involved, and pledged to donate a one of her kidneys to a stranger who needed her help, but whom she would likely never meet.
“Last year, I read an article about illegal kidney trafficking and, the very next day came across the blog of a young man living on dialysis,” wrote Stacey in a post for the lifestyle website xoJane in July 2014. “I decided to donate a kidney to a stranger.”
Explained Michele Lynn, the friend who nominated Stacey, “Stacey donated a kidney to a stranger via ‘donor chains’: Someone who wants to donate a kidney to her loved one, but isn’t a match, pledges to donate to someone else if her loved one gets a transplant. The network puts together chains of people “paying it forward,” but it takes an altruistic donation to set it in motion.”
According to Michele, Stacey was that person. But for Stacey, despite the fact that her act of kindness inspired seven other similar donations by goodhearted strangers, the choice was simple.
“It wasn’t a difficult choice,” she joked. “I’ve taken more time deliberating whether to grow out my bangs.”
Both of our 2014 CITA winners have huge hearts — we saw that, and so did you. More importantly, though, people who may not even know what CITA is saw it. Lori, Shira, and Stacey have set off an unfathomable chain of kindness around the globe — and it we’re being honest, there’s nothing more that we could ever hope to ask for.