Bride Ismini Svensson’s father passed away several years before her big day. Ismini just couldn’t imagine her wedding without him, so she and her fiancé, Mark, decided to ditch their lavish church wedding and honeymoon plans; instead opting to put those funds toward remembering Ismini’s father’s legacy of selflessness.
The pair had set aside a budget for a traditional wedding, complete with reception and honeymoon, but went with a simple courthouse ceremony instead. Using what would have been their wedding money, they decided to do something amazing to honor the memory of Ismini’s father, who went into cardiac arrest while hosting a charity event to award scholarships to under-served youth. That’s when their “50 Acts of Kindness” journey began.
In January 2013, the newlyweds set off on their adventure. They did take a short hiatus when their daughter was born, but little Rafealla was soon hitting the road with her parents on their cross-country goodwill mission.
The family delivered flowers and presents to cancer patients in North Carolina, helped the elderly with grocery shopping in Texas, and participated in a sports camp for disabled children in Connecticut.
They furnished homes for homeless mothers and their children in Nevada, donated clothing to a rescue mission in New Jersey, and spent time at an animal shelter in Florida.
The Orangeburg, N.Y., couple solicited ideas on social media sites for places to visit, and received such an overwhelming response and so much support that they eventually founded StayUNITED, a non-profit that works to promote education, health and civic engagement in New York’s children and youth.
“Whether it is homelessness, domestic violence, illiteracy, or people with disabilities, StayUNITED develops a project, or partners with other local organizations to address the issue,” Mark said.
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