204 Kevin Kirk -- Former Navy SEAL Making a Wave of Kindness
Who is Kevin Kirk?
Kevin Kirk graduated from Southern Connecticut State University in 2005 with a major in Sociology and minor in Criminal Justice. Soon after graduation, Kevin entered the United States Military, where he had both the honor and privilege to serve as a Navy SEAL. Kevin speaks fluent French and enjoys skydiving, scuba diving and developing his combat skills in his free time. After his brother passed away on December 2013, Kevin became inspired to help others and has since lived with that as his purpose. He is a proudly certified hospice volunteer.
WHAT IS MAKE A WAVE?
We are a revolutionary social media platform that promotes acts of kindness and tracks good deeds through the passing of coins.
We encourage people to "pay it forward" and share about it online-allowing users to see firsthand how their "ripple" turns into a "wave."
EXPLAIN THE COINS...
These coins are passed through acts of kindness.
Each coin instructs the recipient to go to MakeaWave.com, where they are directed to type in that coins unique ID and learn what that SPECIFIC coin represents. This gives the ability for these acts of kindness to be attached to its own cause.
Causes can be the birth of a baby, a marriage, or even giving your waiter/waitress a big tip. You can even honor a lost loved one and put the coin in their name! It's up to you, you choose your cause and watch it MAKE A WAVE of kindness!
Transcript of the Episode:
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Scott Schimmel: Well, hey everybody. This is Scott Schimmel, your consummate host of the YouSchool podcast. And I'm here live in studio, sort of, with my new friend Kevin Kirk, former Navy SEAL now is the director of a nonprofit called microwave foundation working with students. And so Kevin, first of all, welcome to the show. And then secondly, I know when people hear former Navy SEAL, they conjure up all these images. And so maybe you can just kind of tff for what was your role within the Navy and, and, and then a quick bridge to what are you doing now?
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Kevin Kirk: Yeah, so 9-11 happened when I was in college, and I realized that I want to serve you know, the nation. I want to be part of the best of the best. So I focused in on the Navy SEAL program. Took me took me about six years to get in. Once I graduated college. I had actually tried to sign up but I go the color blindness test.
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Scott Schimmel: Yeah, that's right
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Kevin Kirk: Make a very long story short it actually took me six years to prove to the military that I could see could could in fact see colors
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Scott Schimmel: go Yeah, and you were just you're just dumb not blind
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Kevin Kirk: or deficient is oh thank you sorry excuse I didn't want to offend ever affecting your life. Obviously the Navy has to be very selective of people. Obviously, you don't want somebody going in that can't see colors that can be very detrimental.
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Scott Schimmel: Which by the way, I'm colorblind so I'm not gonna take any of this personally, I I'm sure I would have been a Navy SEAL as well if I had been able to see color.
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Kevin Kirk: happened was I actually I got denied for many, many years and I never gave up on it.
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And I wound up doing a lot of fundraising for the Navy SEAL Foundation, which is a foundation that supports navy seals and their and their families. So I did that. I was doing like a half Ironman. I would raise money for the
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Navy SEAL foundation then I did a full marathon that I did a full Ironman, it with each of these events, I was pushing myself to become better, but at the same time, I want to support the community that at that time I could not be a part of. So I did that for about four years and eventually I had kind of gotten noticed by the right people for supporting the community and they said, you know, we want to retest you we've seen that you wound up which is a you know, a personality trait that goes far with the seals. And by that's how they call it what do you call it?
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Well, I mean, ultimately, perseverance,
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perseverance, you know, I just would not give up and I knew that about myself and that's probably my my strongest trade. So during that Meantime, of doing all the fundraising night actually bought the color vision machine. So
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last couple years, I have been prepping for this moment and I got to
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Groton, Connecticut, and took the test. And luckily I said I had already bought machine already taken that test a couple thousand times.
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I pass a test and it took me six years. But yeah, so I went in at 28. So I was a bit older, the average is probably around 228 is actually the cutoff. I just missed it by a few weeks. So definitely blessed at and then I got to buds which is Navy SEAL training. And that is they make a very long story short again, that's a that's a big kicker. For me. It was an extra buck kicker. That was a very, very tough program, both mentally and physically. And you know, I wanted to be challenged, I wanted to see the world both the good and the bad, so I could appreciate the good and my time in teams. I got to do both. So I feel very blessed to be on the path that I'm on. You know, there's been there's been pain in my life, but I always say that it's it's my job to turn that pain into something positive.
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Unknown: Um, it's, it's pretty easy to find that and sometimes it's hard but you always have to be looking. So tell me about breakaway foundation. what's the what's the transition from the Navy to nonprofit working with schools? Yeah, you know, as kind of perfect lead in right.
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Kevin Kirk: You know, there is some pain in my life that I wanted to to turn into something positive. Right. So the backstory on that is I had returned from Afghanistan in 2013. And I was stationed in Virginia Beach at the time, but my family lived in a little town in Connecticut, Connecticut called Bethel. So I visited there for the holidays. Visit my family, my two brothers, Ryan and Tim, my parents. And unfortunately, while I was visiting home, my brother Ryan passed away, which was extremely tragic for me not to get into greater detail, but I was I was unfortunately one that found him. So it was a big shock to me to say the least, and
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My brother was an amazing, amazing guy. He had his share of troubles he had been an alcoholic until he was 32 years old. He passed away 36 so I always say if he had passed away when he was 32, he would have left the legacy of Hey, this is this is why you don't drink right because Brian Kelly, but he didn't drink he stopped that and completely turned around his legacy. He got really big into the a program. He loved to volunteer, he was a shift supervisor over at the local homeless shelter and really just became somebody that the family was so proud of. That journey of seeing, seeing him struggle inspired me.
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My father was an alcoholic is too as well. And it was they were going through their flight right around the time that I was going through my fight and SEAL training. And you know, I'm graduation day of your high school graduation, which was, you know, six, eight
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years in the making, you know, I got to stand there with my brother and my father and tell them that they were my inspiration. And I took off you know, my my seal Trident, which, which is the most important thing to a seal. That's, that's saying what we do, and I gave it to my father. He's He's not a seal, God
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just inspired the hell out of me. So it was a very day. Sorry to get back.
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So when it was time to remember my brother at a service, we asked others to not bring flowers or anything like that that's not really what my brother lived for a Lyft for being kind to others and serving others. So we so there's a feel appropriate to do an act of kindness and my brother Ryan's name, and we set up a Facebook Memorial page called letters for Ryan and just asked others if you if you feel to please share your act of kindness on that page. We we didn't really know what we're
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And within 24 hours of saying goodbye, my brother formally, also in all these, all these ways of positive acts of kindness just started rolling in. And we found ourselves as a family, crying tears of happiness and not tears of sadness. Well then, you know, within 24 hours of saying goodbye to him, and we really thought that there was something special there.
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You know, there was something that was very unique in the healing process with us there that
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that I really focused in on whether I knew it or not, at the time, I knew I was part of something special there. And that went on for probably about two months. And we saw that the activity really started to slow down as people moved on with their lives as as they should.
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And for me, it it hit me in my heart that my brother's work was done. And I also realize that you know, there's nothing I can do to bring them back. I it made me
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It made life and death very final for me. And I really took a look at my own life and, and tried to find a different type of meaning and, and really looked at my brother's life for that inspiration. And yeah, we say my brother wasn't a rich man, he didn't have money or anything like that. But I always say that he left us the greatest gift that you can through death, which is inspiration,
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inspiration to be a better person, inspiration, be kinder to others, inspiration to find ways to serve others more, obviously got to take care of yourself. I'm not saying that we really left a beautiful legacy. And, you know, I looked at that legacy, and just thought of ways to keep that going. And I would talk to my brother Tim about it, who's you know, he's living in Texas, and now with his family, and his now wife came up with the idea of passing a coin. So, at the beginning, it was a coin that would be passed through acts of kindness to say
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You go to Starbucks and just ask the barista, hey, next person orders medium coffee today, it's on me and I just paid find out that it's for free, just pass them on this coin, right and on the back corner would be the link to the URL for the Facebook page for letters for line. So that was was this that that really don't make waves. And we said on that we talked about it a lot. We kind of came up with some designs, but we never really moved forward with it. I think. I think we knew it was a great concept. But we also knew that it was a bit temporary, you know, I don't think we It was a band aid. Right? I don't think expected it to really flourish the way that something could my brother's name,
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somebody else's name as well. So what we did,
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and we just kept picking at it and as always on the front front part of my brain, which is you really want where you want your ideas that you're creating to be and one night I was in between sleep and consciousness, that weird kind of
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Stage. And all of a sudden, in my dream, I saw the back of that coin and it didn't have the URL anymore. I had a serial number.
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And this is, you know, I'm not an overly spiritual guy. So this was this was new to me.
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And I just knew that I was given some sort of inspiration to, to to work on, and I work on it. Just build the vision out I didn't sleep for three days and three nights actually probably about
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which wasn't foreign to me.
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You know, there's that thin line between madness and creativity. I was definitely on that threshold. But I was I was loving the journey. This is all new to me. Well, new mission to to get prepared for 100% and I was actually I was going through my military transition at that time. So for me, it was I've had two columns in my life one was to be a Navy SEAL which was not easy
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to to make make waves
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reality which, which has been a journey, right? So.
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So yeah, so that's a why students why schools why students? Yeah. So when we started Nick with, we realized that we had a way through this on the back of that, that coin, where where that inspiration wound up going, was that on the back of the coin, it would lead that person that gets past the coin to make waves calm. So you read on the back where to go. And then once you get to our website, it's going to ask you for the specific serial number on the back of your coin. And once type, once you type in that coin, it unlocks the journey and the message of that coin right. So you can see all the time that let it to you. You can see what it will positive impact map so you can track the coins, or is all those you're a part of something now. Yeah, yeah. You know, we really, you always hear about, you know, one one act of kindness can change the world, right? What we really thought was that
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You know, we can prove that we can prove that one minus can change, you're trying to operationalize that turn into a strategy. Exactly, exactly. So our mission now is make waves we multiply the good, and
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that really comes full circle with, with who we are and what we're trying to do. So, you know, once once the viewer looks, you know, at that coins profile
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they're driven to do an act of kindness to continue that chain of positive impact. And that's that's the way that we really focused on at the beginning with you the acts of kindness. And
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you know, we we played around with that had some good coins, get out there do some amazing things, you know, people getting, you know, hundred dollar tips and things like that. But then I had a teacher in Virginia Beach, contact me, same group of friends. And she told me that she would love to use the midway point in your classroom, which was thing before that. It was
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is, you know a way to remember lost loved ones, you could create a profile for that coin to hold that remembers your lost loved ones. So acts of kindness in their name. That's that was our original vision. Okay, and then we got some started in her class. And I mean, I think everybody that knew about the project just fell in love with it and seeing, seeing the purity that the students have when they pass on the coin. It's so genuine and extremely refreshing. So we knew that was going to be a major focus of ours. So I got a couple more coins going for beta testing. And there was a school down in Texas that took the inspiration from Grossman Elementary in Virginia Beach, that previous school, and she took that and want to try it a little bit different. So the way it worked in her school was that the coin got passed from class to class, with different reading, getting student the student and the act of kindness
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wasn't happening between the students in the classes, it was actually getting done to the community. For example, if I was a teacher and the coin got passed to my class, I would gather my students around and say, Hey, this is a microwave coin, its mission is to make the world a better place. It's now our assignment to plan and complete in a an active service to the community. And then they pass it on to another class to continue that chain. And I didn't really know what to expect when I heard about the plan but then once I saw it executed, I was absolutely blown away. Were these weren't small acts of kindness happen anymore. This was this was major positive impact happened in their community read the students were leading, and that the students were part of and it really it inspired all of us to work so much harder to make, make a wave a reality. I'm sure you can tell I'm getting all
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talking about the Yeah. I'm so passionate about it. So
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Yeah, I mean, we had they, they actually had a food drive for one of their first acts of service. And I was expecting maybe raising, you know, 45 pounds of food or something like that, which would have done great, right? Right. He is 1800 pounds of food my shelf, which provides 938 meals for that for that community. Wow. And imagine being in fourth grade and, and realizing that they you have the power to impact the community like that when you come together. We really from that point on our our focus really changed from promoting kindness to really promoting the power and possibility of unity and teamwork. What can what can we do when we all work together, which kind of leads us into the direction that we're going into the into the upcoming upcoming school year, which is, you know,
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We're really excited we multiply the goods. So when we saw that we said, How do we how do we make this a little bit bigger? Right, so moving forward, it's actually going to be passed from school to school. Sweet. So the whole school will come together to do an active service to the community. And then they'll pass on the coin and just keep that going. But that would like a very simple concept. But the impact that that can do on a macro scale is absolutely amazing. Right? Read for some of the people that like data out there or numbers, I'm not a mathematician.
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But I respect it and I know its value. So you were to take the average number of students in a United States Middle School at 600. Right? So if we got 100 coins out there, the school year, if those schools if those coins just got passed on one time by school, the United States that would be 60,000 students coming together to make their communities
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Better Place and we're we're trying to create a, you know systems and processes where we will take about two months for the school to plan and execute that passing, which bring it around that coin being passed five times that year. Right so if that if these coins start to get past five times this year is 100 coins and a year brings together 300,000 students to make the world a better place. Well, if if we started with a senior class and just said, hey, it's it's your job to leave your school through this assignment. By the time they're at their 10 year anniversary, those hundred coins will affect and positively impact 3 million.
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So now it just really kind of kind of blew our minds a little bit once we looked at the numbers and just how simple this can be. So now we're really focused on you know, bringing in principals and school systems that are looking
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Unknown: To use technology, to to teach their students lessons about teamwork, unity, serve others really just making the world a better place. It's all about promoting, while I was taking notes as you're talking and trying to imagine principals who have students that are learning these lessons from you, even from your own story, when you have setbacks, when you have roadblocks, become the kind of person who doesn't get overwhelmed or crushed by them. You keep going you by the color blind. You learn it, you figure out a way, you have pain and loss and trauma in your life. And you figure out what to do with that. And again, not to be overwhelmed, but to transform that redeem that. You learn these lessons of that your life has the power to make a difference. Like literally if you're listening to this and you're a school leader and activities director is be principal. Imagine your students learning those things. What would happen if you're starting students are learning those lessons, what would happen to their learning what would happen to their attention
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Kevin Kirk: What would happen to a sense of inclusive at on campus this bullying? And imagine if young students were figuring out my life has purpose, the pain I've been through is worth something I can I can make a difference in this world. I don't have to get up. Yeah, no, I agree. 100%, you know, at at the core of makeweight, what our goal is, in its simplest form is we're looking to bring people together so that they can feel part of something bigger than themselves. And, you know, I was I was blessed with military intelligence in general to to always feel like I was part of something bigger. Yeah, not everybody has that. And I think, you know, make a point for some of the students that that are
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teams and things like that could really bring them in, get them social, make them feel like they're part of something positive. Yeah. Also one of the stories on cyber bullying with the coin. So there was this goes back to the student to student when it's past
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from students in Virginia Beach, there had been a student there, this is a third grade classroom and the student was beginning to display behavior for bullying. Right? And this is this is a class where the Midway midway point has passed. And so the the student that was holding the coin that week, decided that they were going to do their act of kindness to bully.
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And that act of kindness was completed and talking with the teacher that bullying stopped.
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And that that bully passed on that coin and one of my favorite acts of kindness, which I won't get into, but uh, yeah, really, it really came full circle with that with that coin and just seeing that you're just including others. Um, you know, the the teacher in Roseman Elementary, you know, she describes it as, you know, when somebody gets passed on that coin, it's their birthday.
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When you're that age, you know, your birthday is suffering.
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special day. Well, that's, that's the same feeling that the students are getting. So just knowing that, that the, you know, there's coins out there just really helping our students become kinder and you know, learn how to work as a team to make the world a better place is just yeah, I have the best job in the world. Yeah. Well, something. Something tells me that you're going to figure this out and figure out a way to get this into every school across the country.
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I will you said the country.
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You know, we, you know, we've spoke before, this is my why, you know, I, this is my passion. This is my, I don't want to use the word obsession, but this is this is my calling. And I'll never turn away from it. So I will. You're correct. I will keep going. Yeah, I feel like this is this is doing what it can. It's my job to do. So. I'm not the creator of this. I'm just the head volunteer and I'm on the guide. So Well, tell me how to find you.
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Unknown: How do we get in touch with you? How do we bring you to our school? Yes, so my email is Kevin Kirk. That's KI rk at make a wave.com. Okay. And that's the website maker wave. com. Yeah, websites up there. There's some contact information as well. Great. And then on Instagram, we are making a foundation, right? In Facebook we are with. Awesome. Well, Kevin, thank you for being a part of the show for friend to us school and we can't wait to partner with you. And imagine students learning these deep things about life at a young age you think of maybe a generation ahead of us that are in the twilight of their lives in their, in their retirement trying to figure how do I make a difference now like imagine if we flipped that in kids as they're starting life new that's what life is all about. So thank you for what you're doing and bless your work. I hope it grows across the world.