Who Are We?

Kindness Grows Here, Inc. Is thrilled to have the following leaders serving as the Board of Directors:

Kristen DeBoy Caminiti, MSW — Founder, President

Kristen grew up in Catonsville, Maryland and attended Boston College where she met her husband, Matt, in the marching band. In 2004 Kristen graduated Magna Cum Laude from Boston College with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. She then completed her Master’s degree in Social Work from Boston College with a specialization in medical social work (2005).

After graduation, Kristen completed a fellowship with Harvard University and Boston Children’s Hospital in Pediatric Palliative Care. Kristen spent 10 years working with chronically and terminally ill children and their families. She has worked in in-patient acute care settings, hospice, and outpatient mental health clinics. In this humbling work Kristen gained extensive knowledge and expertise in supporting children and families in crisis and in providing grief therapy.

After becoming a mother Kristen focused most of her attention at home on her four kids while also staying active in the field of Social Work by teaching continuing education courses to other social workers. Kristen has spoken at local and National conferences on topics related to supporting children and families facing the death or illness of a loved one.

In 2016, Kristen was feeling dismayed by the discord and negativity she saw taking over her community and Country, and she decided to do something about it. Kristen knew whatever she did needed to include her children. And so, on November 9, 2016, Kristen and her three boys set out to spread kindness as far and wide as they could. Their individual efforts in spreading kindness soon grew to become a group of like-minded community members all seeking to spread kindness. The group was called Crofton Is Kind, named for the community Kristen and Matt have called home since 2006.

Soon Crofton is Kind grew, and individuals and organizations started seeing the good work Kristen was doing and wanted to donate to her efforts. As such, Kristen decided to start a non-profit foundation to continue her mission of fostering kindness in children and spreading kindness in the community. And thus, Kindness Grows Here, Inc. was born.

When Kristen isn’t spreading kindness, she can be found spending time with her four kids and her husband Matt. She enjoys coaching basketball, running, and volunteering at her kids’ schools. Kristen is thrilled to be leading Kindness Grows Here with a group of dedicated and talented board members who help make this world a kinder place everyday.

Erica Harmelech–Vice President

Erica Harmelech has worked with children of all ages throughout her nearly 20-year professional career, including spending more than a decade as a Child Life Specialist at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital (YNHCH). During her time at YNHCH, she provided child life services to children and families in the pediatric infusion room, pediatric hematology/oncology clinic, and the pre-anesthesia visit clinic. She also represented the child life services team on numerous cross-functional committees, including the Palliative Care Team and the Pain Committee.

During her non-clinic time, she acted as a hospital liaison for many non-profits including The Tommy Fund for Childhood Cancer, Circle of Care, and Splashes of Hope. Erica also spent time as a volunteer for The Cove for Grieving Children, and the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. Erica is the winner of the 2009 CureChief Hero Award, and the Cove Kids Award.

Erica received her certification as a Child Life Specialist after attending the University of Delaware, where she earned a B.S. in Family and Community Services with a focus in Delivery to Hospitalized Children, and a minor in Disabilities Studies. She completed her internships at Tomorrow Children’s Institute for Pediatric Oncology and Hematology and Nurses N’ Kids PPEC.

Erica grew up in Vernon, CT, and now lives in Rockville, MD with her husband, two amazing young children and one very fluffy dog. Erica’s interests include running, reading, and cheering for the New England Patriots, USA soccer, and USA track and field. Erica also enjoys being an active member in her synagogue and volunteering at her children’s schools. Erica is excited to be part of Kindness Grows Here and to help make this world a little kinder each and every day.  

Matt Caminiti, MBA — Chief Financial Officer


Matt Caminiti grew up in Farmington, Connecticut. He attended Boston College where in 2003 he received a Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education and Spanish and where he also met his wife Kristen. After teaching high school Spanish for three years, Matt decided to pursue a career in business. He completed his MBA from Loyola University Maryland in 2010, concentrating in Finance and International Business. Matt is also the father of three sons and one daughter and an avid (former) musician.

Matt is a presales engineer for Inovalon, a technology company that provides cloud-based platforms to improve clinical and quality outcomes across the healthcare industry. In this role, he works with customers to design technology and operational solutions to maximize patient care.

Matt has also focused on public policy and its impact on businesses for more than 10 years, including appearances as a subject matter expert for Bloomberg Television, Bloomberg.com, Federal News Radio and in front of the Maryland State Legislature. He regularly speaks as a subject matter expert at national health care conferences across the country.

When Matt isn’t working he can be found spending time with his kids and his wife, Kristen, of 15 years. He is excited to be a member of the board of Kindness Grows Here to help the organization advance its reach as it spreads kindness both within and outside the Crofton community.

Helen Connelly–Secretary

Helen was born in Amityville, NY and grew up in Huntington, Long Island with a brief stay in Northridge, California. She attended The American University in Washington, DC and has lived in the Washington area since then. With a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, she began her career in 1973 as a counselor in the Helen Smith Girls Home, a residential facility for teenage girls referred the Department of Social Services as well as Juvenile Court.  The group home was part of Boy’s and Girl’s Homes of Montgomery County, which still exists today under the name Hearts and Homes for Youth. During her early career she also served as the Director of the Helen Smith Girls Home and as the Project Coordinator for Project 70001, a youth employment program in Montgomery County.

Throughout her career Helen has dedicated herself to addressing issues relating to missing and exploited children, school safety, juvenile justice, and law enforcement and community-based training and collaborations. She was fortunate to have worked with families of missing children, authoring several publications to support those who have been the victim of such tragedies. “When Your Child is Missing: A Family Survival Guide” received the Blue Pencil award from the  National Association of Government Communicators for writing excellence. She helped to develop the national AMBER Alert program, create the first National AMBER Alert criteria and national AMBER Alert system, and establish a national training and technical assistance program serving the country. She has also managed many national training initiatives designed to improve the skills, capabilities, and knowledge of those who work with children and families.

In early 2020, Helen retired from Fox Valley Technical College, where she had worked as a Program Manager for more than 15 years.  She lived in Rockville. MD for more than 35 years and recently moved to Crofton where she lives with her husband. Helen raised two sons who currently reside Virginia Beach area, both of whom have dedicated their careers in service to others. Helen adores spending time with her four grandchildren, who affectionately call her Nino.

Helen was excited to learn about Kindness Grows Here and is even more excited to be part of this exceptional group of individuals who not only understand the importance of kindness, but are spreading it throughout their daily lives.

Elyse Knight

Elyse Knight

Elyse grew up as one of four children in a small town in West Virginia and has lived in Anne Arundel County since 2002. After High School, she attended Virginia Tech where she majored in Family & Child Development. After graduation in 2002 she worked in the Social Work field for a little over three years as a caseworker/school-aged counselor at Sarah’s House homeless shelter in Fort Meade, MD.

Elyse was a stay at home mother to four beautiful children for the next eight years, until she returned to the workforce as a Learning Resource Center aide in the English Department at Archbishop Spalding High School. During the last year, she switched to the Religion Department and has been teaching 9th-11th graders in a variety of classes including Morality, Church History, and Sacred Scripture.

Elyse’s interests include running half and full marathons with her husband, cooking with her children, going to Virginia Tech football games with family and friends, and cheering loudly from the sidelines of her children’s sporting events.

Elyse is thrilled to be a part of Kindness Grows Here to help spread kindness throughout her community and beyond with her family in tow!

Kelley Patrick

Kelley officially joined Kindness Grows Here in 2021 after several years of following its mission.  Kelley and her sisters were raised in a family that was committed to serving the community.  Dad, a career naval officer and mom, a school teacher turned librarian, Kelley and her sisters have fond memories of their youth volunteering at local Annapolis nursing homes, food banks, and the Annapolis lighthouse shelter.  Their parents set an example of high moral character and doing good in the community.

Kelley graduated with a degree in management from Gettysburg College in 2001 and then UVA with a Masters of Accounting degree in 2002. She worked for Ernst & Young for a little over 7 years in a client serving role in the firm’s assurance practice from May 2001 until having her first of four daughters in 2008.  In 2008 she became a stay at home mom and is still currently fully employed as a project manager of the Patrick Household.

Kelley was first introduced to Kindness Grows Here when her niece and nephew were grant recipients in 2018. Kelley’s children helped their cousins fulfill some of their project ideas of making beaded bracelets to bring along with refreshments to nursing home residents in NJ at the Christmas holidays and singing Christmas Carols.

Kelley an avid runner, carpool master, and kindness enthusiast is thrilled to join the board of this special organization.  She is committed to its mission to spread kindness to make the world a better place and lead by example for her children.  We can all use a little more kindness in our lives!

Shauna Sappington

“Every act of kindness plants a seed.” ~Mary Davis. 

Shauna grew up in Howard County where she currently resides with her family.  She graduated from the University of Baltimore in 1998 with a Bachelor’s degree in International Business and worked at a financial firm for a year before heading to New York to begin law school.  In 2000, Shauna moved back to Maryland and finished law school at The Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law.  Shauna has been working as a securities lawyer in the private and public sectors for nearly 20 years.  When not working, you can find Shauna enjoying her kids, snuggled up with a blanket on her lap and nose in a book, or working out. 

After graduating from law school and passing the Maryland bar, Shauna was in search of ways that she could make a difference through kind acts in her community.  It was then that she began volunteering for The Make-A-Wish Foundation as a wish grantor, a role she would continue for several years.  As a wish grantor, Shauna was able to connect with terminally ill children and their families in Baltimore City and the surrounding counties to discover that one wish that would make them smile and take them away from their troubles…even if just for a little while.  In that role, she saw first-hand how kind acts were positively affecting these families even in the most heartbreaking of circumstances.  Several years later, Shauna witnessed the powerful effect of kindness when she volunteered to be a leader for her own child’s Scouts Troop.  For six years, she led 10-13 kids in scout lessons, community activities, and peer-to-peer encouragement activities to promote kindness to self, family, friends, and community. 

In 2017, spurred by yet another mass shooting in the United States, Shauna officially became a kindness activist.  In her new role to drive change, she established a website and social media devoted to spreading kindness, became a social ambassador for the Great Kindness Challenge, co-founded the kindness committee at her kids’ elementary school, planned various kindness activities with her family in her community, and coined a kindness celebration for leap year 2020. 

Shauna was on a quest to do more in 2021, but did not have the resources to expand her efforts on her own.  It was serendipitous that she came across Kindness Grows Here’s website seeking board members…right in her own backyard!  Shauna is so excited to be a part of the Kindness Grows Here team and looks forward to supporting and spreading kindness near and far.

Ruth Smith

Ruth was born in New Jersey but moved with her family to Columbia in 1976.  The youngest of four children, she spent much of her childhood exploring the area and watching Columbia develop from a small town into a unique “city”.   Ruth is a proud graduate of HCPSS and is honored to have been both a student at Howard Community College, studying early childhood, as well as being welcomed as an adjunct facility member, sharing her passion and expertise of working with young children. She continues to enjoy the Howard County area and is married with three children and two awesome young grandchildren.  

After 25 years of service, Ruth recently retired from directing and teaching for 25 years at The Young School in Columbia at Kendall Ridge.  Through her years of working with children, Ruth has enjoyed growing the connections between teachers and children and partnering with their families to make those student-teacher bonds even stronger!  She understands the importance of helping children learn the value of kindness and compassion for one another and the significance in helping them find their voices.  Ruth’s greatest joy is connecting lessons through stories, experiences and storytelling. 

Currently, she is enjoying being an active grandmother, “GiGi”, as she cares for her almost toddling grandson!  Ruth is eager to share her experiences with young children as she partners with Kindness Grows Here. 

In her spare time, Ruth has a genuine love for photography and nature and enjoys bringing the life of nature to children.  She believes a simple walk in the park can turn into a fun learning experience, especially teaching children to be kind, caring, and compassionate to their environment and the living world.  Ruth is excited to bring her skill of photography to events with Kindness Grows Here.   

Holly Willis

Holly Willis

Holly Willis, a native of Virginia, moved to Maryland twenty years ago by way of Pittsburgh PA (Go Panthers!).  She has lived in Anne Arundel County for the past 16 years and currently resides in Millersville with her husband Chuck, 2 cats, and 3 children Naomi (14), Desmond (10), and Jackson (10). She works as a teaching assistant for Anne Arundel County Public Schools and is a master’s trained librarian.

Holly volunteered in her children’s school serving as chair of a PTA green committee for 3 years and a 2-year term as PTA president.   Holly is a certified Master Naturalist with the DNR. She is an avid birder, native plant, and vegetable gardener, and fan of any kind of music. In her spare time, Holly enjoys helping in any capacity for Sarah’s House, Linda’s Legacy Homeless Drive, Good Neighbors Group, and WISE among other civic organizations.

Holly has recently dived back into school taking courses at the community college to become a teacher. She knows how important it is to be a partner in all children’s education of both the mind and the soul. Part of her own moral compass is to try to help children learn early about empathy, their identity in the world, and responsibility as doers of good in the world. She is happy to bring her knowledge and ideas to further the mission of Kindness Grows Here.

Board Member Emeritus:
Margaret L. (Peggy) Elliott

Peggy Elliott

Peggy has been a resident of the Crofton area since 1951, when Davidsonville Road was gravel and there was nothing but farms.  She left home for college and work, and Crofton sprang up in her absence.

Peggy has a BS from Dickinson College with majors in Chemistry and French, and a MLA from Johns Hopkins University.  Peggy Joined the US Navy in 1968. She was stationed all over the world and the US and then retired as a Commander in the Aviation Maintenance Specialty.

When Peggy retired she returned home to Crofton where she and her husband built a house on her family’s property and raised three children in the Crofton Woods feeder system.  Peggy has been active in mission work with Community United Methodist Church in Crofton with numerous trips to Guatemala, disaster relief including 2 years in Mississippi after Katrina, several visits to the Democratic Republic of the Congo with the Methodist Aviation Ministry – to name some.  While working in Real Estate for a few years, Peggy volunteered at Crofton Woods and Crofton Middle and then worked for AACPS for 7 years in the Media Center at Arundel High.  Peggy also served on the Anne Arundel County Forestry Board, and with the Arundel Volunteer Fire Department as an EMT and in Administrative positions.

Peggy is a part of Kindness Grows Here because she believes that together we can do something to turn around the divisiveness, anger, and general unhappiness that seem to be tearing at the very fabric of our culture.

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