How One Woman Is Spreading Positivity by Giving Out Recycled Medals

This simple act of kindness really makes a person's day.

Kim Stemple spreads positivity by giving out recycled medalsCourtesy Kim Stemple
Kim Stemple celebrating after a race. The simple message of the medals, she said, “is kindness.”

In 2012, Kim Stemple, a special-education teacher, found herself tethered to an IV in a Boston hospital being treated for one of several diseases she had been diagnosed with, including lupus and lymphoma. The normally ebullient Stemple was naturally getting very depressed. And then a friend gave her a medal. Make sure you’re aware of the silent lupus signs you shouldn’t ignore.

Before she got too sick to exercise, Stemple had been a marathon runner. The medal came from a racing partner who had just finished a half marathon in Las Vegas and hoped the keepsake would act as a kind of vicarious pick-me-up. It worked like a charm—and then some.

After Stemple hung the medal from her hospital IV pole, other patients said they wanted medals too. That got Stemple thinking. “A medal is a simple way to give a positive message,” she told And so was born her charity, We Finish Together, which collects medals from ­strangers—runners, dancers, swimmers, singers, and even spelling bee winners—and donates them to all sorts of people in need. Talk about meaningful acts of kindness that don’t cost a cent.

Recipients have included hospital patients, residents of homeless shelters, and veterans. Part of the process involves the donor writing a personalized note on the ribbon. “This gives them a connection to someone,” says Stemple. “If they receive a medal, they know someone cares.”

Can a simple medal really make a difference? Yes, says Joan Musarra, who suffers from ­pulmonary fibrosis. “I opened my package containing my new medal and the notes of positive, warm thoughts. I was overwhelmed,” she wrote to Stemple. “At that moment, I was sitting on my couch breathing through an oxygen cannula because my lungs have deteriorated so badly. It means so much to me to feel that I am not alone.” Read on for more moving stories about the kindness of strangers.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Andy Simmons
Andy Simmons is a features editor at Reader's Digest.