COVINGTON – You may have seen Suzann Castore at this year’s Ft. Rowdy celebration? She was the one wearing the blue tights and red cape, passing our “smileys”.
The little firecracker is known as the A.O.K. (acts of kindness) lady. She started the Kindness Exchange project in 2005.
Castore has waged war against mental illness; anorexia, bulimia, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, attention-deficit disorder, dissociative disorder, and child abuse.
The 67 year old from New Jersey has been hospitalized 39 times from the above health issues. But, that doesn’t stop her from smiling and hugging everyone she meets, to reach her passionate goal of making Columbus, Ohio (where she now resides) a stepping-stone for kindness.
“It’s very hard for people to understand mental illness. But there is hope. People get well,” she explained in a telephone interview. “The acts of kindness I’m giving others healed me. I’m trying to give back as much as possible.”
From 1986 to 2002, Suzann’s hospitalizations and relapses deflated her life many times. She tried to commit suicide five times.
“I was in and out of hospitals, treated by a number of professionals, placed on a variety of medications and diagnosed with a number of mental disorders,” Castore divulged. When she thinks back, Susann calls herself “very fortunate” to have survived.
She was misdiagnosed with nearly 10 different mental health disorders, before finally receiving the correct diagnoses and medication for bipolar disorder. She still remembers this experience as a, “painful road to recovery and healing.”
Throughout Susann’s ups and downs, one thing has never waivered: her passion to help others. She has found healing in volunteerism, and of course random acts of kindness.
Suzann has experienced a long road of recovery, turning her personal tragedies into other’s joy. For this, Suzann has found the true meaning of Acts 20:35:
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
This week’s bottom line: “I know in my heart it’s one person at a time. I am in awe of the way kindness works.”