There is so much to admire about Ryan Kinder. One of the most talented musicians I have come across in a long time, Ryan is a sensational singer, guitar player, performer and songwriter. However, music is not the only thing that is so admirable about Kinder. After his hometown being hit by a tornado in 2011 and witnessing and experiencing the devastation of the aftermath, Ryan never truly got the vision out of his head of seeing so many people lose so much. Having to live with such an awful experience, Ryan found a way to make a difference for those who were left with nothing, by raising money to purchase toys for children who’d lost them.
Kinder’s Kids is a nonprofit charity that started in 2014 and it continues to grow and grow. The charity helped raise over $5,000 to purchase toys for children who suffered after a natural disaster in 2018.
On December 15, 2018, more than 400 toys for 200 children were delivered to Kingdom Impact Center, an after-school facility in Panama City, Florida, that provides outreach and a safe space for neighbourhood kids. Watch special behind the scenes video clips below.
When I spoke to Ryan, he had just got back from his brother’s wedding in Jamaica and was back in a colder Nashville. I jumped right in and asked about his charity Kinder’s Kids, as a press release had just gone out to celebrate the charity’s Fifth Annual Toy Drive. We spoke about just how special it must be to be in the fifth year of such an important charity at such a significant time of year:
“Yes, it is extremely special. This time we hit a lot closer to home, because growing up and going on vacation in Panama City, I have played there as a musician for half of my life. So, to see the hurricane devastate the area like it did and for us to be able to go down there and help in our own special way was really something.”
With being in the UK, I explained to Ryan that we are quite lucky here in terms of natural disasters – we have losses of course but we don’t have tornadoes or devastating hurricanes.
“We do unfortunately get a high volume of natural disasters. Our charity does important work when we go to these areas that are affected and see how many people are in need. It is terrible and it is very hard to see but I am glad that we have found an avenue to help.”
When you really think about what you have in your home and which items are essential and which are not, you realise what order people are likely to replace lost goods in. Sadly you will probably find that toys may be one of the last things to be replaced after appliances, clothes etc, so having a charity that focuses on that (toys) is truly remarkable, especially as toys are not exactly cheap. When I mentioned the cost to Ryan he said:
“They are not cheap. It surprises me every year when we go and do the push and purchase toys, how expensive it is; it’s crazy. “
I couldn’t help but express my shock at just how expensive Lego in particular is.
“Oh, Lego is so expensive, haha!”
I was keen to know how hard or easy it is to set up a charity, does it take years to get the ball rolling?
“It was fairly easy. We had our goal and we were very focused on helping a certain place and people in that place. It was very easy to set up but it was just getting that amount of toys to that place (where the charity originated), that was the tough part, because some places we went are hours away – maybe 12 hours away or further – so it took a long time, but it was worth every hour on the road to see those kids get a toy.
It began (the idea of Kinder’s Kids) just close to Alabama where I went to school. A tornado hit there in 2011 and I remember going out after the tornado hit and we went out behind my house and down the street a little bit and everything was gone. I remember seeing a child clutching a toy standing in the foundation of what used to be their house. That stuck with me for years.
We didn’t start the charity then, we started when I began playing shows in Nashville and out on the road. I have a rider for each show where we ask for water, towels and whatever else we might need at the shows and I always ask for a $15 toy on that rider. I thought that was a very simple way to gather toys throughout the year and that means after playing so many shows a year, I will have that many toys a year and that’s a fantastic start. It helps me spread the story and garner support of people wanting to help give.
That was the beginning of it, and we would do a big push closer to the year end and ask people to donate and ask friends and family and we would gather up money and go to Walmart or where we could, to buy toys. We would have numerous shopping carts full of toys and people would come up and ask why we are buying so many toys, and so we would get to tell the story and then people would usually donate on the spot which is an incredible experience, very humbling. A proud part of that is seeing people want to give no matter what, especially at the very end of our purchasing, they just want to help. That has been from the beginning up till now.”
Knowing that people do such wonderful things such as donating on the spot really warms the heart and gives you faith in a world where tragic things do happen. Seeing the brighter side of a charity brings great feeling and pride and joy but hearing stories and seeing the wreckage from a disaster must be quite distressing. Ryan expressed both sides of his involvement. When I asked him about how it felt to see the kids’ faces when he presents gifts, he said:
“It’s incredible. Just seeing the absolute elation on these kids’ faces when I get to tell them “Yeah, pick whatever toy you want, these are for you”. They absolutely light up and it changes their world for a few moments to know that someone is there for them and their families, and whatever organisation we have teamed up with in that community is also there for them and helping them. It’s a wonderful thing.”
But of hearing the stories of how they came to be in their position he said:
“It’s tough to be there on the ground and see the devastation. I have been in their position myself, so I understand what they are going through – but it is still hard every time.”
With Ryan and his wife being somewhat of Santa Clauses, I asked him would he wish to do more with the charity?
“I don’t know if we will do multiple runs, maybe we will. Right now, we are focusing on keeping it around Christmas, but I would love to help fund music programs in schools, dance programs too, as my wife is part of the charity with me and she grew up dancing. She would love to be able to give kids dance uniforms and tap shoes and help pay for dance programs in schools and help the creative programs already in place stay alive.”
With schools having such a lack of creative programs, especially in the UK, I told Ryan that I couldn’t help but completely back this idea, especially when so many kids see their peers afford music or dance lessons and they cannot – but also the fact many schools don’t even have music class anymore.
“Yeah! That is part of the reason we wanted to do it. There are also a lot of schools here suffering the same way as the UK, and the music and dance programs get shut down.”
Ryan has been to the UK a couple of times now and we’d spoken of his show riders earlier, so I asked if he would ever want to include toys on his UK shows’ riders and how I for one would certainly be up for donating when he visits (providing he can take it back without excessive baggage allowance).
“I usually pack very light but that’s a great idea, perhaps I should do that next time? I am going to do that next time I come.”
Now a lot of people are probably reading this and, especially in the UK and Germany, have already made the connection of Ryan’s surname (Kinder) meaning children and being very fitting to his charity. Bringing up that his name means children Ryan replied:
“Yes, in German. Most people don’t get that, they don’t get Kinder means children even though we have Kindergarten. We do have Kinder Care here too, which is an after-school day care program.”
I was also going to say to him that Kindergarten is the US version of nursery, so it is surprising more people haven’t made the connection. Another thing a lot of UK readers would have already thought of whilst reading this is of course Kinder Eggs. This isn’t lost on Kinder as he laughs:
“When people go overseas, they see Kinder chocolate and send me pictures or buy me those all the time and say “Hey look – you have got your own chocolate “. Haha!
Well dang, there goes my plans to bring him a Kinder Egg at his next show, haha!
Speaking primarily for the purpose of Kinder’s Kids, we couldn’t go away without asking if he was coming back to the UK soon. During all his visits here: C2C, BST Hyde Park and on tour with Drake White, Ryan truly has built up quite the fanbase. If you haven’t seen him live then you must, as he puts on one hell of a show that gives even the biggest names a run for their money. Ryan was one of the most talked about acts at British Summer Time Hyde Park last year when he supported Eric Clapton. Ryan has always spoken of his love for the UK:
“Yes, we don’t have dates just yet, but we are definitely coming back this year at some point; I absolutely love coming over to the UK.”
We had to know about music too. Kinder’s music is something else – really quite outstanding – and yet we currently have so little available, so I had to ask if more will be released soon; an album or EP perhaps?
“Yes, possibly two, definitely one. I am recording at the end of February and hopefully have that out soon.”
Well that is great news. I ended the conversation thanking Ryan for his charity work and all that he does for children. I explained that whilst I thankfully can’t relate to those who have suffered from a natural disaster, I can appreciate how it must have such a large effect and how as a mum, I can understand how hard it would be to explain the situation to your children and that they have nothing to play with and have to wait a while till they can have toys again.
Kinder’s Kids is a charity that many may not have heard of or realise just how important it is. I am interested to see the charity grow and read all the wonderful stories that come with it. Of course, we can only hope that these tragic events will never happen again and that everyone gets to keep their homes and their belongings so that the Kinders can focus on the school program side of things. But we are just thankful that if and when disaster does strike, the Kinders are there, doing their part and bringing huge smiles to so many children. This is a charity well worthy of your support, even if just to spread the word – but remember, if you see Ryan Kinder in a Walmart with multiple trolleys: purchase a $15 toy and be a part of it: be Santa for a day, for a moment.
In previous years, Kinder’s Kids has donated toys to organizations including Towing for Tots in Murray, KY (2014), Vanderbilt’s Children’s Hospital in Nashville, TN (2015), various cities in the North Carolina area (2016) and Faith Family Church in Baytown, TX (2017). While toy drives are the primary focus for Kinder’s Kids presently, plans are in the works to expand their initiatives to funding fine arts in less fortunate schools. For more information or to make a donation, visit KindersKidsFoundation.com or follow on Instagram.