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Originally published Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 10:11 PM

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Seattle takes up 'who's the kindest?' dare from Louisville

Seattle volunteers want to trounce other cities in service hours through a challenge called "The Compassion Games: Survival of the Kindest."

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Louisville, Ky., is going down.

Seattle is going to smash the city in a competition over who can volunteer the most hours if the local organizer of The Compassion Games, Jon Ramer, has anything to do with it.

That's because, Ramer says, earlier this year Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer had the gall to challenge Seattle, often rated as one of the nation's most charitable cities, to see who could record more volunteer hours. Fischer proclaimed his own city as the "most compassionate" in the country after Louisville residents logged more than 90,000 hours of service in a week this year.

Ramer, a social entrepreneur, accepted the "survival of the kindest" challenge, which is now supported by Seattle Center's Next Fifty. Ramer, of Seattle, said he named the challenge "The Compassion Games" because he wants to redirect the passionate spirit of competition applied toward violence in the popular book and movie "The Hunger Games" toward kindness.

"We are kind of culture-hacking here," Ramer said. "We're trying to reframe competition here to make the point it's going to take everyone to make a collective impact" — an impact on problems such as Seattle's increased gun violence this year. Ramer said he doesn't think government or police can solve the society's problems on their own.

Seattle's monthlong challenge kicked off Sept. 21 with beach cleanups, playground building and other volunteer projects, Ramer said. In one day, more than 59,000 service hours were logged into the Compassion Games website, which lists volunteer projects across the city.

The goal is to beat Louisville's 90,000 hours of service by Oct. 21. But Seattle is still at around 80,000 service hours, Ramer said.

"I'm getting worried," Ramer said, even though he said he knows Seattle is capable of beating Louisville any day. That doesn't mean there can't be improvement, he said.

"We knew when we started listening to each other after all the shootings this year," Ramer said. "To feel safe in your community, you have to get connected, and we know we've become too isolated."

Alexa Vaughn: 206-464-2515 or avaughn@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @AlexaVaughn.

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