A Simple Act of Kindness.

By Emily DaytonSeptember 14, 2013

**After launching our World Suicide Prevention Day / National Suicide Prevention Week campaign, we came across the organizations You Can NOT Be Replaced ® . You Can NOT Be Replaced, a charitable organization located in Manasquan, NJ, is the owner of the trademark YOU CAN NOT BE REPLACED ® . You Can NOT Be Replaced ® grew out of a desire to inspire the youth in their area, where there have been several student suicides. You can learn more about You Can NOT Be Replaced ® at www.youcannotbereplaced.com. Emily Dayton, whose family founded You Can NOT Be Replaced ®, shared here how this work has impacted her community for the better.


I live in Monmouth County, New Jersey, which is now home to the largest suicide cluster in the country. I’m only 20 years old, but my community and I have experienced 14 suicides in six years. Seven of those deaths were of students from my high school.

It was the end of my freshman year when the first boy took his life. Then, like a waterfall, it seemed like it was just one after another. By the time I was a senior, there had been six deaths by suicide. Each time, a stream of questions would run through my mind. How? Why?

There really weren’t any answers, because there is almost no explanation for what we all lived through. It changed how I saw my family, my friends, my choices, and myself.

After I graduated high school, our small shore towns had finally gone a year and a half without a death. We all started to heal and move forward. Then, in the middle of my freshman year in college, there was another. It was February of 2011, and I came home for the weekend after hearing the news.

I wanted to take action, but how do you take action on something so complex? My parents and I were talking about this at the dinner table one night, and I was extremely frustrated with the unanswered questions.

Then, it hit me. People are so unique in themselves, whether because of their hidden talent, a facial feature, their style, their accomplishments, their dreams. And once that individual is gone, all of those characteristics are gone, too. I thought of the many lives lost and wondered, “Maybe they didn’t realize or no one told them, ‘There is only one you.’” I said out loud, “Don’t they realize they cannot be replaced?”

Soon, we ordered wristbands for the kids at the high school, which read “I Can NOT Be Replaced.” I knew I wanted students to pass them on to others, kind of as an excuse to walk up to someone or a reason to thank them for their friendship. We learned a lot of the boys were having a hard time, but no one had any idea. It was time for people to start reaching out and doing something kind for one another. And it was great to finally have something to work on that could make a difference in our community.

We noticed the teenagers often couldn’t tell us what they were good at, other than sports or music. So we created “character cards” to be used like trading cards, featuring values like “Honesty,” “Generosity,” and “Loyalty.” We wanted them to see these gifts as important and irreplaceable, too.

My parents and I now lead well-received events and school assemblies, and I took the message of “You Can NOT Be Replaced” to my new college, University of Dallas. When Hurricane Sandy hit our town last year and damaged 1,800 homes, we helped by volunteering, running a supply center, and leaving wristbands with homeowners. We were also lucky enough to help with a community family healing day, which collected $100,000 to later be redistributed within the community. Even beyond our county, there are 14,000 wristbands being passed around the country, and we recently sent our first package to the UK. There is nothing like getting an email from someone whose life has been changed by our efforts.

You never know how far a simple act of kindness can go. Just by opening the door for someone, or smiling at a stranger—or giving out a wristband—, you might make someone’s day that much better. You could even change their path. The smallest of kind gestures works, and I think it is sometimes the best answer to questions and problems that are so big. If you can help even just one person remember their value, that’s a gift in itself. I feel very fortunate to be able to reach people and remind them, no matter what, they are loved, they are valuable, and they cannot be replaced.

—Emily Dayton

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Comments (13)

  1. Frankie Laursen

    Thank you for sharing your story and for all that you’re doing back home and in Texas. It’s really inspiring.

    Reply  |  
  2. Addi Alcurd

    Wow. I havent ever attempted, ive considered, but nvr done it. I now understand that i do have a purpose. I know i want to help troubled teens. I am one myself, i know where they are. But everyone, in their own way, is BEAUTIFUL. Stay Strong

    Reply  |  
    1. kamoore

      Addi, That’s my “character card” for you. RESOLVE. : a strong determination to do something (merriam-webster online) Because you understand, you can identify with those who need it most, and because you have ‘resolved’ to help others, you ARE irreplaceable!

      Reply  |  
      1. Addi Alcurd

        Thanks so much for that amazing comment. I have a group of 13-15 year olds that are comin through. My oldest, Nick, had a breakthrough Friday morning. Hes done cutting. Im so proud of him thats when i realised that he needed me. That others need me too. Im looking into a college that has a great program for troubled teens.

        Reply  |  
  3. Lisa Schenke

    Thank you to Emily, the Daytons and You Cannot Be Replaced for all you are doing to help with suicide prevention and improved self-esteem for teens and young adults. Emily, you will forever have a place in my heart. Lisa and Without Tim

    Reply  |  
  4. sherrie gerdon

    I have just been looking at ordering your braclets. A school in my community lost 5 children in weeks (two of which were suicides). I am the mother of one…my 17 year old daughter Kenzie was one that commited suicide. There is soo much to learn from people like you, and it MUST be the way adults support relentlessly. It is sad that this has been the actions of the minority, but hopefully through brilliant people like you, those who have these special lights as human being will shine and not fade.

    Reply  |  
  5. Justin

    Thank you for this Emily. Thank you for caring. Thank you for asking questions. Thank you for being the one and only irreplaceable you.

    Reply  |  
  6. Calee

    I’m still dreaming to push through with a movement/organization like this in my community. You are an inspiration, and it gives me hope. Thanks for the reminder that Little Acts of Kindness can go a long way. God bless you and your family, and I hope your passion and heart for the cause burns even greater.

    Reply  |  
  7. Cheryl-Lynn Roberts

    Bless you and your family for being compassionate and starting something to allow more people to help, drive that message that not one person can ever be replaced and that that person matters. When you see and hear about more organizations like this, it gives weight to our isolated and confidential dialogues with youths (I work on a youth line)…youths can finally see that it’s not just their parents or teacher, or best friend saying they are special. One youth thanked me last week for telling her it was not normal to feel depressed day after day after day…that it was beyond being “just a teen phase”. It breaks my heart to hear many youths suffering and not knowing where to turn. I’m relieved when a youth gives life one more chance…often they called because they heard through an organization such as yours to reach out. So, organizations like this matter so much. Blessings, Cheryl-Lynn (stigmahurtseveryone.wordpress.com)

    Reply  |  
  8. Confidential

    Thank you for sharing your story ! My daughter is going through a tough time and I can’t seem to help her is there any advice that you can give me ? Thank tou

    Reply  |  
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