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El Paso Challenge spreads acts of kindness inspired by one boy

He was afraid after the shooting, so his mom asked him to think about how he could help.
/ Source: TODAY

In the aftermath of the nation’s most recent mass shootings, a sixth grader is spreading hope in El Paso.

Ruben Martinez III and his mother, Rose Gandarilla, created a viral social media campaign on Twitter, challenging “ALL El Pasoans to commit 20 Random Acts of Kindness. One for every person that was killed in our city’s mass shooting.”

The death toll has since increased to 22.

After the massacre, Gandarilla tells TODAY Parents, she noticed a change in her son. The “energetic” 11-year-old who enjoys singing, dancing and karate no longer wanted to leave the house.

He didn’t want to go shopping at stores anymore, instead asking his mom to use delivery services.

Related story: How to talk to children about shootings

“He was very anxious all weekend and didn’t want to leave the house,” Gandarilla said. “We talked, and I reminded him that El Pasoans are good people. I asked him to think of something he could do to help. He came back 30 minutes later with all the info written on his notebook.”

El Paso Challenge

Ruben’s mother posted a picture of her son with a sign that read “elpasoCHALLENGE” and his handwritten note encouraging his community to spread kindness and love in the wake of their tragedy.

In the post the 11-year-old suggested several ways to show compassion for others and make a difference.

“Example: Mow someone’s lawn, visit a nursing home, pay for someone’s lunch or dinner, donate to families in need, write someone a letter and tell them how great they are, hold the door for everyone, comfort someone when they are sad or stressed, take flowers to someone in the hospital, leave a dollar on the vending machine for the next person; and any other random acts of kindness.”

He also asked for people to “hold up posters, pass out flyers” to encourage others to join the challenge.

'You're El Paso'

Since Gandarilla posted the picture of Ruben and his kindness challenge, he has received an outpouring of support from people in El Paso and across the nation. Isabela Diaz, a native to El Paso, and her friends handed out water to people who were “praying and crying” at the Walmart where the massacre took place.

“What happened was really sad, but it made us like all united. Like it brought us all together as a family,” Diaz said. “Anywhere you go, everybody right now is just being so kind and I just felt like because of what happened we just keep doing this. It doesn't just have to be the 22 days, it just becomes like something we do on the regular.”

Jonathan Welsh, the founder of Right Drive car dealership, described his experience in the challenge as “emotional” and “fulfilling.”

Welsh and his staff members went to several restaurants in El Paso to pay for people’s food, telling them, “We love you, you're El Paso, we love you and we’re here.”

The challenge continues to spread on social media.

Ruben's mom says her son “was scared, we all were. He knows that a lot of people are affected and feeling anxious and/or heartbroken. He truly does believe that kindness will help the world.”