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Community honors youngster by displaying acts of kindness

A community has come together to ensure that one young girl’s legacy to “Liv like a Unicorn” is encompassed in kind acts toward others.

Olivia “Liv” Lipnicky, 8, of Freehold Township, the daughter of Emma Lipnicky, passed away in November 2019 after a courageous battle with cancer. The youngster had an aggressive stage IV tumor in her spine that eventually spread to other areas of her body.

In an interview on March 5, Lipnicky said “Liv like a Unicorn,” a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, was established in her daughter’s honor to raise awareness and to help fund advancements in pediatric cancer research.

“I always say (Olivia) was kind of like a unicorn,” Lipnicky said. “The things she embodied and that she embraced at such a young age was something you didn’t see often. She was so empathetic and so kind.

“… Liv was always worried about trying to help other people. She had this big initiative of kids helping kids, being the good and random acts of kindness. That is another direction we want to go in with the foundation. (We want to) encourage other children and the local community to spread the message of kindness,” Lipnicky said.

Last summer, Lipnicky said, her daughter raised more than $10,000 for pediatric cancer research by organizing a community clothing drive. A second annual clothing drive will be held on May 17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 175 Topaz Drive, Freehold Township.

Although Olivia was fighting her own battle with cancer, Lipnicky said her daughter was an empathetic soul who wanted to help children facing similar medical obstacles.

Lipnicky said she wants the same kindness embodied by her daughter to be spread throughout the community.

She said “kindness cards” that read “Liv like a Unicorn” and “In Memory of Olivia ‘Liv’ Lipnicky” are being distributed after an individual conducts a random act of kindness.

“I wanted to find a way to encourage people to spread that message of kindness and keep Liv connected to that (act of kindness),” Lipnicky said.

For example, if an individual purchases coffee for a stranger at a coffee shop, the person who paid for a stranger’s order will ask the cashier to relay the kindness card to the second individual. Ideally, the individual who received the free coffee and the kindness card will return the favor.

Olivia was friends with the daughter of William Smith, who is the principal of the Freehold Learning Center elementary school, Freehold Borough. Smith said his children distributed the kindness cards during a vacation in Pennsylvania.

“The best reaction is usually from the (middleman),” Smith said. “They think this is the coolest thing. We don’t get to see the reactions from people (who receive the good deed.)”

Smith said kindness cards, which cost $1, were purchased by staff members at the Freehold Learning Center. Funds raised by the sale of the kindness cards support the “Live Like a Unicorn” foundation.

“The idea of kindness is such a broad thing. (Kindness cards) give children something tangible to hold onto. When you have something tangible, I think that (the kind act) really sinks in,” Lipnicky said. “(The Freehold Learning Center) was the first school to jump on and get involved.”

“We have really good people in this school,” Smith said. “A lot of them are Freehold residents so they knew the story … Staff members put a committee together to do something and raise money.”

Smith and Lipnicky said staff members at the Freehold Learning Center spearheaded fundraising initiatives and involved the pupils in charitable activities such as the “uni-coins for kindness.”

“The idea of a kindness curriculum started from how much (the Freehold Learning Center) has embraced the message of (kindness),” Lipnicky said.

Lipnicky said some schools in Monmouth County are incorporating a new kindness curriculum that encourages kind acts and raises money for pediatric cancer.

Lipnicky said 80% of the proceeds will benefit the “Liv Like a Unicorn” foundation and 20% of the funds will directly support families who are impacted by a pediatric cancer diagnosis.

The kindness curriculum was piloted at Olivia’s former school, the Joseph J. Catena Elementary School in Freehold Township. The Manalapan-Englishtown Regional School District will carry out the program next month and Freehold Township will roll out the program at its other elementary schools during the upcoming school year, Lipnicky said.

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