Before I came to Petoskey High School, I didn’t truly understand what kindness was. I knew it was supposed to be this great thing that made you feel all warm and happy inside, but I never had the privilege of actually experiencing its effects. No matter how hard I tried to grasp onto it, it always somehow fell out of my reach. 

I was the victim of bullying for twelve years. From kindergarten to eleventh grade, I lived a pretty miserable life. Every day was an internal battle as I debated whether or not I could handle going to school that day. The days that I did go were full of name-calling, getting made fun of, and trying to find somewhere to sit for lunch. Every time I came home, I felt defeated. I wanted to stand up for myself, but it wasn’t in my nature to treat other human beings with disrespect. So, I just dealt with it for as long as I could.  

In February of 2019, my mom and I decided that enough was enough, and my hunt for a new school began. I decided to tour Petoskey High School and was instantly greeted by four Cheetos Club members upon walking through the door. They showed me the entire high school and gave me a little “kindness” bag full of candy, gum, and, of course, Cheetos. As I rode home with my mom, I couldn’t stop smiling. Somehow these four kids I had never met made me feel more welcome at a school I had never been to than the school I had gone to my whole life.  I chose to attend Petoskey High School in the fall of 2109 and also became part of the Cheetos Club. I wanted to truly learn about how they affected the student body and be a part of the ripple of kindness that seemed to be spreading.

One of the staple items of Cheetos Club is “bags”.  White paper bags decorated with puns, pictures, stickers, and words of encouragement and hope.  Spencer Tibbits took pictures, words and, treats and combined them to bring joy to people in a variety of creative ways.  One of our favorites is the birthday bag. This little bag has the power to make any ordinary birthday extraordinary. Receiving the bag on your special day is a highlight. But what happens if a worldwide pandemic takes the ability to make and deliver birthday bags away?

COVID-19 is something none of us ever thought to plan for, but it is the reality of our current situation. The devastations that have come with the COVID-19 outbreak have taken a serious toll on not only the Petoskey community but the world. It’s times like these where planning to be kind becomes a necessity. 

Sixteen years ago, my mother started an online archery business called Archer Full Throttle. What started as something very small has grown into a fully functioning online store. Our home is visited by the post office, as well as multiple FedEx and UPS trucks every day, so shipping things is a norm for us. 

When Petoskey High School shut down, Cheetos Club knew that it was our time to take action. We immediately recognized that birthdays during this time of social distancing were going to be particularly disappointing, so we decided to start sending out birthday packages to every student who has a birthday during the stay at home order. However, dealing with the postage and all of the minor details of shipping can be quite complicated if you’re not used to it. 

What was once the Archer Full Throttle packaging center has become the Cheetos Club birthday packaging center. Along with bows and turkey calls, the post office picks up decorated birthday packages full of candy, as well. Taking on this mission has brought so much joy into our household and now, while I never could have pictured this collaboration, even Archer Full Throttle is planning to be kind. 

I never thought that a small group of kids could change my life and influence my family and our business. Because of the Cheetos Club, I have felt true happiness for the first time in years. Because of them, I’ve discovered what true friends are. Because of them, I learned what kindness means. Kindness isn’t just “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate,” as Google would say. It’s so much more than that. Kindness is a single drop of water that has the power to spread ripples for miles and miles. Kindness is a flower that never stops blooming. But most importantly, kindness is the Cheetos Club.