thrive Filling Hearts with Kindness, Starting with Her Own BY MARI WALKER
I N D N E S S is the keyword for eight-year-old Tiva Thyssen, and she’s involved in several efforts to spread it. Specifically, since losing her older brother Traeh to suicide in 2019, Tiva works to bring awareness to and prevent bullying and suicide Rosalynn Thyssen, mother of Tiva, Traeh, and their siblings Theodore, Trinitee, and Chloe, started the Traeh Thyssen Have A hearT Foundation, which provides information, resources, and support to combat bullying and prevent youth suicide. Tiva plays an active role in the foundation and bringing its message to more people in the hopes of saving other children who are hurting like Traeh. The foundation’s marketing efforts include a focus on hearts and the number 13. Traeh is heart spelled backward, and he was 13 when he died. “The foundation just tells people that you should always have a heart,” Tiva says.
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For Random Acts of Kindness Week in February, the organization provided “You’ve Been Hearted” signs. For a $13 donation, foundation volunteers placed the heart-shaped signs in friends’ or neighbors’ yards. “Someone thought of me, so let me think of someone else as well,” Rosalynn says about the way kindness spread from the candygram-style fundraiser. International days celebrating kindness are a big deal for the Thyssen family. As part of World Kindness Day and National Random Acts of Kindness Day, Tiva helped create and expand the kindness rock garden at Front Yard Bikes, another local nonprofit. Tiva and other volunteers painted kind words on rocks as well as a short definition of each word. “And when mean people see the rocks, they just want to throw it,” Tiva says. “But they can look at the rocks and it will say ‘be kind’ and they will stop wanting to throw it.” Writing is another goal for Tiva. She’d like to write her own story and encourages others to write. “Write a long story about your life and how it’s been hard and then give it to people. And then they’ll understand more about you,” she recommends. “Write down your feelings so all your bad feelings can go away.” Tiva also works through her feelings by painting and creating other art. A third grader at Southern University Lab School, Tiva volunteers for a number of other worthy causes, and she’s always focused on helping others. She has participated in a #SockItToSuicide sock drive and collected items for 13 gift bags given to children experiencing homelessness through the Secret Closet organization. She helped her godfather, local activist Emanuel Boo Milton, create Spark Box activity kits last summer to help keep kids engaged and learning when options for traditional camp were so limited. When the family citrus trees were overflowing, the excess fruit was donated to organizations serving the homeless. On the 13th day of each month, the foundation uses its Instagram page for the 13-minute challenge. “We encourage parents to take 13 minutes of uninterrupted time with their kids,” Rosalynn says. Often, adults may seem to hear but not really understand their children. Tiva makes a number of videos encouraging parents to take the challenge. They also invite their followers to share videos. “Tell us something about yourself and the hard times you had,” Tiva explains. Modeling is another passion for Tiva, and she regularly participates in runway shows. Rosalynn says the foundation is planning a runway walk in the fall to help spark conversations about bullying and suicide. Find the foundation on Instagram and Facebook @traehthyssen.haveaheart. ■