#BeYourOwnIcon: Annie Hart Cool

Annie Hart Cool on AmericanSunglass.com

There’s a meme that’s regularly passed around social media that reads something to this effect: if we all practiced random acts of kindness in our lives on a daily basis, imagine what the world would be like.

It’s that concept that Cape Cod’s Annie Hart Cool ran with this past Christmas as a way to make a small, but meaningful impact on this place she calls home.

She did it as a teaching lesson for her nephews and nieces, opting to not purchase gifts for them this year. Instead, she took the money she would have used for their gifts and paid it forward; some was given to strangers, others to those who have influenced her life. And then she chronicled each gift-giving moment in a short story which she tucked in an envelope and left under the tree for her seven nieces and nephews to open and read on Christmas morning.

In total, she gave away $700 in $100 increments, serving as a holiday surprise for those she crossed paths with over the month of December. She called it the Great $100 Giveaway Project.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • A teenage valet was the recipient of a $100 gift from Annie. Thinking it was a mistake, he chased after her to return the cash. She explained it wasn’t a mistake. “He started to cry and held me like I was a life raft,” she wrote on Facebook.
  • At dinner with her husband Mark, the pair struck up a conversation at a bar with a complete stranger and his wife. The man, who was from Boston, proceeded to tell Annie that he had survived four heart attacks in 2016. “He was in his mid-60s and he started talking about all these ‘nevers’ in his life, and as he was talking I pulled out $100 and I said, ‘Here’s another thing that never happened to you before.’ I told him my husband and I were doing a $100 giveaway and we thought anybody who survived four heart attacks deserves $100,” Annie told us. 
  • While patiently waiting in line at Walmart behind a mother and her three children, Annie used the setting as another opportunity to spread some holiday cheer. When one of the daughters ran off and the mother followed, Annie secretly paid $100 towards the stranger’s purchases, all as her twin girls looked on. When the mother returned, she was confused, calling the store clerk over, explaining there had to be a mistake. The twins giggled, pointing to Annie, the culprit. There was a long hug. “No words were needed,” Annie said.

Perhaps the most powerful giveaway was made to an acquaintance who had a profound impact on her life over three decades ago. The two had once been neighbors in an apartment building when Annie was in her 20s; occasionally he would stop by and they would share some food and a glass of wine.

“One night a boyfriend of mine started throwing me about the room and punching me… awful stuff,” Annie wrote. “And then as I lay on my floor with blurred vision I see him, my neighbor, as if Superman, methodically taking my boyfriend to task. The boyfriend hobbled to his car and my neighbor nursed my wounds [with] packs of frozen peas and wet washcloths, and then called the police. I found out later he was a welterweight boxing champ from [Rhode Island]. The perfect guy to intervene on my distress.”

Just days before Christmas, Annie crossed paths with her former neighbor at a holiday party. She told him about her giveaway and asked if he would accept $100 as “a thank you after all these years,” she wrote. “He kissed my forehead and said, ‘You could not have given this to me at a better time’… I honored him and he once saved me.”

In the grand scheme of things $700 is not much. But in Falmouth – our home and headquarters – it helped epitomize what the holidays are truly about. And it said something about our connection to one another as human beings.

When we asked Annie if she would do this again, she didn’t hesitate: “As long as I can raise the money to do it, I will,” she told us.

We hope that others reading this will follow suit. It doesn’t have to be big. But it can be one step towards making this world a better place, just like the one we imagined.

TOMS and Revo: Companies That Give Back

We sell a variety of sunglasses in all shapes, styles and colors. Each brand is unique, offering our customers something of value. Perhaps none allows people to make a difference more than TOMS (click here) and Revo (click here).

Through TOMS One for One program, each pair of sunglasses purchased gives the gift of sight for those in need.  The company funds a full-eye exam to those in 13 countries around the globe. They also provide prescription glasses, sight-saving surgery and medical treatment, ensuring those in need can receive the proper treatment to not only maintain, but improve their eyesight.

In a similar vein, Revo has partnered with the Brien Holden Vision Institute and U2’s Bono to ensure those throughout the world have access to eye care services and treatment they need to protect their vision through its “Buy Vision, Give Sight” program. Through 2020, the program is attempting to raise $10 million that will help prevent vision impairment and blindness in more than 5 million people in impoverished areas throughout the world. To that end, Revo is donating $10 for each pair of eyeglasses it sells.  You can learn more about this program by clicking here.

Words of an Icon: “There is really something special about giving.” – Annie Hart Cool