- Associated Press - Sunday, April 19, 2015

ELKHART, Ind. (AP) - Alex Radelich, the founder of Ark Project Now, had a moment of inspiration while watching the movie “Evan Almighty.”

“Do you want to know how to change the world?” Morgan Freeman as God asks Steve Carell’s character in the movie. “One act of random kindness at a time” - ARK.

Now the 21-year-old from Elkhart and a group of friends are trying to change the world, one act of random kindness at a time. Radelich and three other members of Ark Project Now will soon set out on their second summer road trip, driving around the perimeter of the United States to “inspire an epidemic of kindness” through various community events.

This summer’s journey is going to be much more comfortable thanks to the new Thor Ace 30.2 RV donated to the nonprofit by a team effort led by Lippert Components and Thor Industries. The Ark Project Now team will set out May 14 on an approximately 9,000-mile trip in the motor home presented April 1 at the RV Hall of Fame in Elkhart.

“They outdid themselves,” Radelich said of the gift. “They really blessed us.”

The team, all friends in their early 20s from Elkhart, set out last summer in a 1994 RV that couldn’t comfortably sleep the group. Among other problems they had with the RV, some of the guys were too tall to even stand up in it.

But when they returned from their trip, Radelich told the South Bend Tribune (http://bit.ly/1CG5VLi ), they got some good news. While the guys had been gone for the summer, the father of Ark Project Now members Ted and Jacob Thatcher sat down with Jason Lippert, CEO of Lippert Components, to discuss possible financial assistance.

When the group returned to the area, Lippert met with Radelich and Ted Thatcher on the same day Ark Project Now was featured on the “Today” show. Lippert said he wanted to discuss what the nonprofit might do with a monetary donation, but after finding out what the team had just spent the summer driving around in, he knew how his company could help. So Lippert asked if Ark Project Now would like a new RV.

“That whole thing was just crazy,” Radelich said of the news. “I still can’t believe it.”

Lippert was compelled by the team’s passion to help people, he said, something that aligns with his company’s core values. Lippert said he called Bob Martin, CEO of Thor, hoping to get him involved too. Lippert said he saw it as an opportunity for the entire industry to play a role. Other Elkhart companies, including Atwood Mobile Products, Patrick Industries, Dicor Corp., Sharpline Converting and Mito Corp., also sponsored parts of the project.

Martin said the cause really hit close to home for him. It’s amazing to see what a group from his community is able to do across the country, he said.

“These guys have such a big mission and such big hearts and such big goals in what they are trying to do,” Lippert said, “that it’s nice to have an opportunity to be able to help these guys with their mission.”

The mission this summer will be bigger and better than last year, Radelich said. The nonprofit team will hit dozens of cities including New York, Washington, D.C., Orlando, Florida, New Orleans, Dallas, Los Angeles and Denver in its 10-week trip.

Some of the events planned include speaking at high schools, handing out care packages to homeless people and taking a group of foster children to Disney World. Last summer, the group gave out free ice cream to low-income neighborhoods, made dinner for families with terminally ill children, took kids to baseball games and simply handed out flowers with inspiring notes attached.

Whatever the team does, Radelich said, they hope not only to make life better for people, but to inspire them to pay it forward. And with a dream to make traveling with Ark Project Now a year-round endeavor, he said, he doesn’t see himself stopping.

“At the end of the day we are trying to create smiles,” Radelich said.

___

Information from: South Bend Tribune, http://www.southbendtribune.com

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