The Kennedy Project

The Kennedy Project: Park Crest student collects travel toiletries for homeless shelters

October 16, 2017


Gazing out of the back-seat window, Kennedy Huschka’s attention shifts to the man standing at the corner of the intersection, holding a tattered cardboard sign. Written in all caps are three desperate words:

“HOMELESS, ANYTHING HELPS.”

“Every time I see a homeless person on the streets, I’m like, what way can I help them?” Park Crest Middle School eighth-grader Kennedy said.

Tapping into resources already at her disposable, Kennedy came up with the idea to collect travel toiletries for homeless shelters.

“We travel a lot, so I thought, ‘what better way to help them than when we can bring back the soaps and conditioners we haven’t used?’” Kennedy said. “When I take a shower, I feel so much better and I hope they will too when I give them the travel treasures.”

Kennedy started her service project by placing a box labeled “travel treasures” at her church, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Austin. It was such a success, she thought she would expand the project by asking for donations. Ten hand-written letters addressed to hotels in the Austin/Round Rock area were placed in the mail.

“I read through the letter and was very touched,” Hyatt Place Austin/Round Rock General Manager Mindi Marshall said. “Hyatt’s purpose as a company is to care for people so they can be their best, so I thought this idea was a really cool play on that.”

The Hyatt Place staff posted a photo of Kennedy’s letter on the hotel Facebook page.

“We couldn't help but feel inspired,” they wrote. “As a staff, we could really tell Kennedy has a passion for helping others. After a week of planning, the Kennedy Project was born.”

News of the Hyatt Place partnership with Kennedy spread quickly.

“I was blown away that a middle school student had put together such a massive project and partnered with such a large hotel,” Park Crest Middle School Principal Zack Kleypas said. “However, Park Crest is full of awesome kids with great ideas, and Kennedy is no exception.”

Hyatt Place staff sets aside a portion of travel toiletries each month to donate to the Kennedy Project. Kennedy takes the donated items home to divide up into plastic storage bags.

“It’s a small expense for us, but it makes a big impact for her,” Marshall said.

Each bag consists of a travel-size shampoo, conditioner, body soap and body lotion. The bags are dropped off at St. Matthew’s and distributed to homeless shelters throughout Austin.

“I hope that they can find hope out of this, that they can make it through their struggles and get back on their feet,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy reminds us there is no age limit for helping people. 

“Through the Kennedy Project, I have learned that anybody, including myself, can help people,” she said. “Whether you’re 42 or 13 like me, you can help people; it doesn’t really matter how old you are.”

The Hyatt Place is accepting community donations for zipper storage bags and unused travel toiletries. Donations may be dropped off at the front desk at Hyatt Place Austin/Round Rock, 420 Sundance Parkway, Round Rock, Texas, 78681.

For more information about the Kennedy Project, please contact Mindi.Marshall@hyatt.com.