Charity Spotlight: Kid in the Corner

Photo: On June 13, 2017, Zachary Sumner (above) took his own life, leading to the creation of Kid in the Corner 

Organization

Kid in the Corner

Leadership

Founder & CEO | Francine Sumner
Board President  | Maggie Miller

Annual budget

$140,000

Origin: Kid in the Corner is a grassroots organization started by Zachary Sumner’s family and friends after he committed suicide in 2017.

During his fight with mental illness, Zach often said he felt alone, like nobody cared. None of the kids at his school, youth groups or extracurricular activities asked where he was after being gone weeks for inpatient treatment. It was as if mental illness made Zach invisible.

Zach was a funny, smart, well-liked kid. But he was convinced that he was the “kid in the corner.” This sense of isolation and insignificance fueled his depression and the decision to end his life.

If only he could have seen the outpouring of love for him after he died. It wasn’t that nobody cared — people didn’t know what to say. And when people don’t know what to say, they say nothing.

Today, Kid in the Corner works to shatter the stigma surrounding mental illness through education, awareness, compassion and activism. In the process, it is working to change the story for other kids in the corner, wherever they may be.  

Known for: Kid in the Corner is known for its “Penny Pledge.” Zach was a coin collector and pennies were his specialty.

By wearing pennies around their necks, key chains or backpacks, Kid in the Corner supporters have a physical reminder to reach out, be kind and show people that they are not alone. Zach’s pennies serve as symbols to prompt active listening, start bold conversations and recognize our own mental health needs. 

Pennies are often discounted as insignificant. But the pledge is a reminder that every cent counts. Here’s how it goes:

By wearing this penny, I pledge to:

Reach out to the kid in the corner.
Say hello, smile, ask where they’ve been.

Be aware of my own mental health.
It’s OK to not be OK.

Realize there is strength in asking for help.

Be a safe and caring person that others can talk to.
Be a friend. Be a shoulder to lean on. Listen. 

Challenges during COVID-19: Before COVID, all Kid in the Corner programming was in-person. To adapt to restrictions, the nonprofit developed a virtual presentation using an online classroom, which has helped it reach more youth than ever. Kid in the Corner plans to use the platform in the future in the hope of reaching young people beyond Arizona.

Most surprising thing about the organization: Since its inception, more than 30,000 people have taken the Penny Pledge. “We are saving and changing lives every single day and constantly hear testimonials from parents, students
and educators telling us about the impact our program has had on them,” said Kid in the Corner CEO
Francine Sumner. 

The organization now offers “Penny Pledge” workplace trainings to educate adults as well, because better-informed adults lead to better-informed youth.

On a quest to spread kindness: A significant aspect of Kid in the Corner is its community kindness programming. One of its biggest events is “Zach Packs,” a day when individuals, groups and families fill care packs for people experiencing homelessness. The organization’s other major program is “Kindness Rocks,” where people come together to write kind messages on rocks and leave them out for others to find. Promoting contagious kindness is a pillar of the organization and everyone who participates helps move this vision forward.

What they’re looking forward to this year: Kid in the Corner has received funding to hire presenters and trainers to reach even more youth in Arizona. They are looking forward to presenting in-person and online to change as many stories as possible, spread awareness and promote contagious kindness.

To learn more, go to kidinthecorner.org. 

About Tom Evans

Tom Evans is Contributing Editor of Frontdoors Media and a partner at ON Advertising in Phoenix.

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