PHILADELPHIA -- "When it's said sincerely, it's the most essential message of our time," said Cheryl Rice.
That saying, of course, is, "You Matter." These two words were written on a card that Cheryl received seven years ago. And just a few weeks after that, she had a chance to pay it forward.
"I was in line at the grocery store, standing behind a woman in the checkout line and I overheard her tell the cashier her recent struggles," she said. "I gave her a small card with only the words, You Matter. The woman started to cry and said, 'You have no idea what this means to me.'"
From that moment forward, Rice committed to starting her own movement titled, "You Matter Marathon." She founded a nonprofit and started giving away cards for free.
"The goal was to invite people to share one You Matter card a day during the month of November," she said. "And we've grown. Now, we're in 99 countries, which I still can't believe, and the demand for cards has just grown exponentially."
Now a year-long initiative with a special focus in November, the marathon encourages people from around the world to sign up on its website. From there, Rice and volunteers mail out cards at no cost.
Many of those volunteers come from JEVS Human Services, whose office in Philadelphia is home to programs that help individuals return to work and clear criminal records.
"What better message to our participants than to tell them that they matter," said Executive Director of Justice Partnerships, Jeffrey Abramowitz. "Many are unemployed or underemployed, some facing challenges in the justice system."
One participant of the Work Ready Program, Shawnna Kitchen, was surprised to receive a card today.
"Life is a struggle and we do have times where things are kind of hard," she said. "But you know, I always have to keep a smile on my face because a lot of people don't understand that we do matter."
The You Matter Marathon has topped two million cards delivered around the world.