West Sac girl preaches kindness after Dallas police shootings

Leah Nelson finds it hard to ignore people in need.

After a sniper killed five police officers in Dallas this month, the 10-year-old from West Sacramento decided to try to spread kindness to people overwhelmed by prejudice and politics.

Leah’s project, “Becuz I Care,” is simple: Receive a bracelet with kindness, and give it away with kindness.

She’s made and gathered hundreds of colorful loom bracelets and has been giving them out to anyone willing to listen to her message of hope and kindness for 30 seconds.

“It’s kind of hard to be a kid and understand what is going on in the world,” Leah said. “But we’re the next generation. We don’t want to live in a world where you have to hear bad things every day … so let me do something to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future.”

Leah’s parents, Charles and Taylor Nelson, were conflicted about whether to talk to their children about violent incidents in the news lately, especially the shooting of police officers because Leah’s mother works with the West Sacramento Police Department.

Charles Nelson even rushed to turn off the news when his daughter came in while he was watching a report from Dallas. But the news reached Leah, and she approached her father. She wondered why such terrible things happen and whether anything could be done to help.

With a bracelet as a reminder, she wanted to help those hurting and motivate children to seek a better future where the news isn’t all bad.

“I was like, ‘Honey, that would mean a lot to a lot of people,’ and she was like, ‘Dad, why are you crying?’ ” Charles Nelson said.

“I said to her, ‘There are a lot of things going on right now where you have one group of people that are angry toward another group of people, people that feel another group is angry toward them, and at the end of the day everyone is just human.’ 

Leah’s parents supported their daughter’s project by helping her make bracelets to pass out at Summer Night Lights, a community event in West Sacramento in which police, city officials and residents gather for a block party.

Two days after the Dallas shootings, Leah approached West Sacramento Police Chief Thomas McDonald with her message and a bracelet. Her father said McDonald thanked Leah for her efforts to help the community heal. That gave her the confidence to approach Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, who also encouraged her.

Cabaldon helped Leah produce a video for Twitter to get the rest of the community into the spirit.

News of her efforts spread, and a video by local television station Fox 40 of her giving out bracelets at a grocery store went viral on Facebook.

Since then, she has mailed out bracelets around the nation to people willing to take up her cause, even some in Dallas and Baton Rouge, La., where people are still grieving from recent tragedies.

“I’m sitting at my desk and I’m reading messages from people that are in the thick of it that just needed that ray of hope,” Charles Nelson said. “I remember telling her, ‘God is going to use you to do something powerful through this,’ and now I can see this happening.”

The Twitter account and Facebook page that Charles Nelson manages for Leah were flooded with support, especially from the Sacramento Kings, for whom her dad works. Kings player DeMarcus Cousins and team president Chris Granger shared her post on Facebook.

Leah, a basketball fan, is still looking for a way to send bracelets to her two favorite players, Skylar Diggins of the WNBA’s Dallas Wings and basketball legend Michael Jordan, whose youth basketball camp she’s headed to this summer.

This isn’t Leah’s first charitable project. For her ninth birthday, she told her parents she wanted to hold a canned-food drive, and they donated everything she collected to the Sacramento Food Bank.

Leah said her father taught her a long time ago that people do good and bad things because they are only human, and that misunderstanding often comes from making snap judgments about others.

So even when another tragedy strikes or someone ignores her as she tries to give them a bracelet, she continues on without ill will, she said, simply because she cares.

Information about Leah’s project can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/becuzIcare11.

Marjorie Kirk: 916-321-1012, @marjorie_kirk