Matt Kurtz Kindness Grant Winner Announcement – May, 2024

We’re excited to announce the winners of our May, 2024 Matt Kurtz Kindness Grant for their wonderful kindness project. The grant was given by Matt’s Kindness Ripples On (MKRO), an organization that encourages acts of kindness by helping people who have ideas for kindness projects but lack the funding to follow through on those ideas.

Congratulations to Barbara Buckley and her great-nieces Christina, Angela and Mia!

They will receive $500 to help fund their acts of kindness project!

2024 grant winners barbara buckley and nieces 1
Left to Right: Aubrianne (Annie’s cousin, Barbara’s daughter), Annie, Barbara, Christina (in front) and Angela (Mia not pictured)

Barbara Buckley and her great-nieces, Christina Varney, Angela Varney, and Mia Varney (Abington, MA) are the founders of Annie’s Kindness Blankets (AKB). They make no-sew blankets with labels ironed on that speak of kindness and come in their own tote bag; and give them to anyone who needs a hug and to know they are not alone.

Annie, the Varney sister’s mom, and Barbara’s niece, suffered from depression and died by suicide in 2015. Barbara, with Annie’s daughters, wanted to do something to help others and to stop the stigma around depression and suicide and to honor Annie along the way. Inspired by Annie’s hugs, they started Annie’s Kindness Blankets, saying the blankets are representative of an everlasting hug waiting for anyone who may need them. They hope the blankets let others know they are not alone.

Barbara said, “Our original goal was to make 35 AKBs (this was Annie’s age when she passed), to help heal our hearts a little, but to also help 35 more people know they are not alone in their struggles. Since then, with an army of volunteers, we have delivered over 13,000 AKBs. We never imagined in a million years that so many people would associate with our story.

What Annie’s Kindness Blankets represent is hope for those who may need it during a dark time. We believe by putting Annie in front of us, and not behind us, telling her story and sending out some love has helped others know that it’s okay to not be okay. They matter. We send an “everlasting hug” to anyone that may need it.”

2024 grant winners barbara buckley and nieces 2
Left to Right: Chrissy, Angie, Annie (in the middle), Barbara and Mia.

Annie’s Kindness Blankets also opens up a safe space for parents, teachers and students to have healthy conversations about suicide and depression while making the blankets. They have had volunteers from kindergarten students to Girls Scouts, Eagle Scouts, sports teams, college students, individuals and large corporations all coming together to make blankets.

They’ve teamed up with several organizations such as Sleep in Heavenly Peace (Middlesex, MA), an organization that provides beds for kids in need. The beds they make now come with Annie’s Kindness Blankets. Simon Says Give (Worcester, MA), an organization that throws birthday parties for foster kids, now includes a gifted Annie’s Kindness Blanket at each party they throw.

Each person who comes in contact with Annie’s Kindness Blankets walks away with more hope in their heart – whether it be a recipient or a volunteer.

They say none of this will bring their mom back, “who we miss with all our hearts, but helping others helps to keep our hearts a little more peaceful.”

If you know anyone who may need an everlasting hug or would like to volunteer to make Annie’s Kindness Blankets you can contact them on their website.

Annie’s Kindness Blankets is fighting the stigma of depression and suicide one blanket at a time. They’ve engaged hundreds of volunteers, partnered with other organizations and helped change thousands of lives. They are amazing and we’re so proud to have them in our MKRO family.


This grant is given in honor of Matt Kurtz, (1985-2017), a young man whose personal philosophy was to live an honorable, compassionate and non-judgmental life. To give for the sake of giving, to expect nothing in return, to be aware of the world around him and to step in to help others without being asked whenever he saw the need. Matt believed in the ripple effect of a simple act of kindness – like a pebble dropped in water, it goes on and on. You can find out more about how Matt lived his life, examples of his many acts of kindness, big and small, and why this grant was created on

jackie kurtz 1
Jackie Kurtz is a blogger who is on a mission to make the world better, one kindness at a time. When her son died tragically, she started a kindness website and blog as a tribute to him. In his 32 years he impacted more lives than most people do in a lifetime. Her favorite quote is, “Even if we disagree about everything, we can still be kind to each other.” – Matthew L. Jacobson You can connect with Jackie on her website or through email.

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