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First Kurtz Kindness Grant presented to Berlin resident

Berlin resident – Stephen Decatur High School senior Jude Al-Hamed, 17, of Berlin, is a recipient of the first Matt Kurtz Kindness Grant

Funding honors Worcester County resident to whom ‘kindness was a way of life’

By Morgan Pilz, Staff Writer

(Feb. 21, 2019) The Kurtz family, who tragically lost their son nearly two years ago, created the inaugural Matt Kurtz Kindness Grant to help individuals who want to make a difference in the lives of others.

The two winners of the first-ever grant are Berlin resident Jude Al-Hamad and Connie Hammes, of Minnesota.

Matt Kurtz was a Worcester County resident who was known for constant acts of kindness, according to his mother, Jackie.

After hearing from several people about how small acts of kindness could positively impact health, mood and relationships, the Kurtz family decided to create an awareness program to honor his legacy.

“For our son who died 21 months ago … kindness was a way of life for him. He was such a kind, passionate, wonderful person and we decided to offer this grant as an award, as a way to honor him and tribute to him,” Jackie Kurtz said. “We know he’d be so proud of this. This is something he would absolutely be happy to have participated in if he were here.”

Last year, on Nov. 5, the Kurtz family awarded the first Matt Kurtz Kindness Award to Ocean City Elementary School Counselor Linda McGean. On Friday, Feb. 15, two recipients of the first Matt Kurtz Kindness Grant received $250 each to help spread an act of kindness.

“The grants would be for anybody who wanted to do an act of kindness, but it might cost money they didn’t have or needed help financing,” Kurtz said. “We’re offering $250 for someone to pitch an idea of kindness and would need some support on.

“They have two months to complete the project and then they will get back to me to describe how it went and how it felt,” she continued.

Al-Hamad, 17, is a senior at Stephen Decatur High School and has already volunteered and raised funds and supplies for Believe in Tomorrow Children’s Foundation, which provides hospital and respite housing services to critically ill children and their families.

“I was surprised. It was truly an honor because I didn’t expect to win,” Al-Hamad said. “When I found out about this kindness grant, I wanted to submit an idea and help out. It just warmed my heart that I could give back to [Believe in Tomorrow] with the help of the Kurtz family.”

She plans to use her grant funds to fulfill a wish list for children who will stay at the Children’s House by the Sea on 66th Street in Ocean City.

“Since sophomore year I’ve been giving back to Believe in Tomorrow,” Al-Hamad said. “I’ve done collection drives for them and the school and I really just wanted to do something on a more personal level with the children.”

The Believe in Tomorrow facility on 66th Street in Ocean City is open year-round to provide a free getaway to the beach for critically ill children and their families whenever they may need to escape the stresses of their child’s illness.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing that she’s done,” Wayne Littleton, coordinator for the Believe in Tomorrow Children’s Foundation Beach Respite Housing Program, said. “She’s a real role model for the rest of the community of young kids.”

Hammes plans to use her grant to support animals in need, specifically her local humane society.

“I’ve volunteered at the Marshmallow Foundation for the last three years, and currently work in their office part time,” Hammes stated in a press release. “Marshmallow serves as the local pound and rescue for area dogs and cats. As a nonprofit, Marshmallow depends on donations to stay operational. That said, there are seldom extra funds for special projects such as the one I’m going to suggest.

“I’d like to put up a Catio for all of the cats at Marshmallow to enjoy,” Hammes continued. “There is only one window in the cat room, and knowing how much cats love to lounge in the sun, that’s just not enough. It’s hard enough seeing the cats in cages day after day and in the summer months it’s even harder.”

The Kurtz family received 25 applications for the kindness grants, and expects there will be more applications in the future.

“It was important for us to bring focus and attention to all the good and kind people in the world,” Kurtz said. “There’s so much negativity and focus on negative things and people who aren’t so kind that it makes it seem like, ‘That’s what the world is full of,’ and that’s not true.

“What we hope to do with this website and grants and awards is to bring the focus on all the wonderful people that are out there and are kind and compassionate and giving because that’s who they are,” she continued.

The next kindness award will be presented on May 1, and the next grant will be awarded Aug. 1. There will be two kindness awards and grants each year, coordinated every three months, according to Kurtz.

To learn more about sharing small acts of kindness, or about the Matt Kurtz Kindness Award or Grant, visit