Morgan and Susan Guess, founders of the Guess Anti-Bullying Foundation, organized a group of people to paint the message “Be Kind Paducah” on the wall of the tunnel on the Greenway Trail Paducah a year ago. Because of the pandemic, there was no formal unveiling of the mural.
“It’s time!,” said Morgan. “We see the positive impact it is making when we walk on the Greenway Trail. We want to celebrate those who helped us create it and we want to invite the community to see it and celebrate the power of kindness.”
The Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce will host a public ribbon cutting at 9 a.m. Thursday, July 22, at the entrance of the Greenway Trail tunnel, under the Paducah-Brookport Road. Those wishing to attend are encouraged to park on the backside of the Smoke Shop on Cairo Road and to walk up the path to the tunnel.
Artist Kijsa Housman, the owner of MAKE Studios of Paducah, has supported the Guesses with several kindness murals and designed the lettering for the Greenway Tunnel project with the goal of several people painting in the patchwork pieces within the letters.
“The concept when you’re doing a public mural is: You’re trying to think of something that many hands can be a part of,” she said. “What I wanted it to be is bright and colorful and almost, in a way, everybody could find where they painted, but it almost quilts together.
Housman said that everyone who painted had one color.
“Some of the colors repeated, but they were different, so they could walk in and say, ‘Oh, I painted green over there,’ or ‘I painted blue,’ ” she said. “So, they can recognize that because any time you’re able to take ownership of something, it also becomes a part of you.”
“Art speaks to people, and it can speak in a language that nothing else can,” she said. “It’s a way to express ideas and beliefs and things that can impact people.”
More than 20 people from different walks of life turned out to paint the letters, which consisted of different shapes within the letter.
The first Saturday of August is the date of the Guesses annual Paducah Kindness Color Walk. It has become the largest community walk in Paducah. Because of the pandemic and the large crowd that participates, they decided not to host it this year.
“Even though we couldn’t host the Kindness Color Walk this year, we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to spread an important message with students returning to school soon,” said Morgan. “The mural gives us an opportunity to celebrate the power of kindness and to remind students and adults that we all have the opportunity to practice intentional kindness every day. It matters. It makes a difference. It changes lives.”
The Guess Foundation began 10 years ago when Morgan was bullied by a classmate. She experienced stomach spasms, panic attacks and was diagnosed as clinically depressed. She took anti-depressants for a year. Her parents told her bad things are going to happen in life and you can ignore what happened, you can blame others, or you can be a part of creating positive change. Among her many achievements, Morgan successfully lobbied for legislation that now protects all 640,000 Kentucky and recently had an official Be Kind Kentucky license plate approved. She is donating all proceeds to the 16-youth mental health drop-in centers across the Commonwealth. If the plates, which will be available in early 2022, are purchased for just 10% of vehicles, she will be able to donate $1.7 million over the next decade.
Morgan recently graduated from McCracken County High School and heads to Duke University next month where she will study public policy.
“I remain committed to creating kinder schools and communities in Kentucky and look forward to seeing a Kentucky vehicle passing through Durham spreading the message of kindness,” said Morgan. “These license plates will be a moving billboard for kindness.