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Carnegie boy wants to bring 'JOY' to kids this Christmas

| Friday, Dec. 15, 2017, 6:24 p.m.

Kindness is always free. And so are smiles, which is why 11-year-old Randieh Kassouf from Carnegie has made it his mission to make sure every child — healthy or sick — smiles this Christmas.

Working with his older brother Georges, 14, the sixth-grader at Our Lady of Grace Catholic School in Scott set out to make his vision a reality.

With the help of his parents and sister Marie-Belle, Randieh decided that he specifically wanted to bring joy to children who are ill, so he started a campaign to buy Christmas presents to be distributed among the patients at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

Director of Advancement for Our Lady of Grace Catholic School Diane Seybert said the school encourages its students to always act with kindness and empathy.

The school participated in Pittsburgh Kindness Day on Nov. 13, working with AOK, an organization that inspires others to partake in random acts of kindness.

Principal Sharon Brown then challenged the students to not only be kind every day, but to think of extraordinary ways to share that message.

The next week, Brown received a letter of intent from Randieh that simply stated, “I want to make sick kids have a way to smile.”

“We've been working hard on things that are tangible with our kids,” Seybert said, when asked how she and the rest of the staff put the child's efforts into perspective for them. “Doing for others is a big initiative here,” Seybert said, adding that the children do not receive extra credit for helping others.

The school incorporates the “JOY” system when it comes to behavior and the importance of kindness, Seybert said; Jesus, Others and Yourself.

“The sixth-grade class has been reading the book ‘Wonder,'” Seybert said. “We work with the Red Door Program in Downtown Pittsburgh to make bags up for the homeless, and we actually have kids coming to us asking if they can make more bags,” Seybert said. “They're always looking for the next opportunity to help.”

Randieh's only disappointment? He cannot personally deliver the presents to the children at the hospital, Seybert said.

The response has been overwhelming. In addition to over 500 donated toys, Randieh has raised more than $1,600 so far through GoFundMe.

“We can't do it alone, but all of us can, if we work together. Every little donation will help make a kid smile, so let's all help put a smile on a sick kid's face,” Randieh said in a statement on his GoFundMe page. “I am sure we will be able to do it. We will be able to put a smile on sick kids' faces.”

“We are just so proud of him,” Seybert said.

Christina Sheleheda is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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