Like every parent, Ryan Garcia wants his daughter to grow up in a world where she feels safe. And since Jan. 1, Garcia has been finding a different way every day to help create that world so 9-month-old Isla can follow in his footsteps as she grows.
Garcia has taken time out of each day to give back to his community, whether it's wearing the color orange to promote leukemia awareness or buying lunch for a local firehouse. He keeps track of each day's random act of kindness on a blog he created, as well as a Twitter feed and Facebook page.
"This is for my daughter, first and foremost," Garcia says. "I want her to see how easy it is to give back to others. I have a newborn, a life outside of work and a full-time job, but it's still easy to do random acts of kindness."
Garcia says he has yet to miss a day of the campaign, though admits it can be difficult to fit into his Monday through Friday schedule. But after talking to Chicago parents he's met through his campaign, he knows it's worth it.
"I've come into contact with a bunch of different parents throughout the whole process who have given me tips and let me know this is something important. It's encouragement to keep going. It's something that my daughter will be able to look back on and be proud of," Garcia says.
Along with messages of encouragement, he says he's received an overwhelming response with suggestions for future random acts.
"That's the thing I love about this. I have my list, but I get excited about doing things people are passionate about."
And not only have people shared their suggestions, but their own stories of kindness as well.
"I've had Chicagoans reach out after they've seen me on the news and say that's something they did, too," Garcia says. "They'll think of the blog and go perform a random act of kindness."
The ripple effect he's seeing with his campaign is proof to him that Isla is growing up in a generous world. Garcia was excited to see that impact firsthand only two months into his 366 days.
On Feb. 14, Garcia handed out valentines at the corner of State and Madison streets in downtown Chicago. After giving paper valentines to a mother and her daughter, a man approached the three of them asking for 83 cents towards a CTA day pass. Instead, the pair handed him a five dollar bill.
"That's exactly what my goal is with this," Garcia says. "Pay it forward."
Garcia also has had people contact him wanting to tag along on his campaign.
"I haven't had to ask for help. My friends and family have volunteered to donate time and money," he says.
Even strangers have offered to help. Garcia says he isn't sure he's comfortable with monetary donations yet, but he appreciates everyone getting involved. Earlier in the year, Garcia took a soldier and his family to a Northwestern University basketball game with tickets donated to 366 Days by the school.
But Garcia says his biggest support has come from his wife, Lindsey.
"She's a teacher, so she really helps with planning and organizing," he says. "She's my support system."
The support and donations have been appreciated, but definitely unexpected. When Garcia started the project, he vowed to donate a dime to charity for each follower his blog, Twitter and Facebook received.
"I thought maybe it would be my friends and family, maybe I'd have $500 worth of followers by the end of the year," he says. By mid-May, he had collected 6,600 followers, adding up to $660 in donations.
And all these positive reactions are impacting Garcia as he adjusts to life as a father.
"It makes me more patient, a calmer parent. Any situation where I would have gotten riled up, I think of my mission and it calms me down," Garcia says.
Garcia says he is even considering continuing the project after the year is over.
"I may not blog every day in the future, but I think I'll continue," he says. "It's already impacting me-it's changed the way I look at things and look at life."
Alaina is the digital content editor at Chicago Parent. She lives in Chicago.
See more of Alaina's stories here.