HOBOKEN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – It can be tough to meet new people, but not for a young man who’s on a mission to meet 10,000 new friends.
Rob Lawless is going coast to coast for his project, called Rob’s 10K Friends. He meets with strangers for one hour and documents his journey on Instagram.
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2911. “We met and got married within 4 months. It was really fast. But I just knew it.” Originally from Utah, Brittney Smith once dropped out of college with some of her best friends and moved to Park City to work and ski for an entire winter. Rather than returning to school afterwards, she then took her savings and used it to travel all around Europe the following semester. Brittney eventually went back to school, though, and ended up attending @brighamyounguniversity where she met her husband. They now have 6 children together and spend a lot of time traveling for their kids’ modeling and acting careers. Though they still live in Utah, they’re currently in NYC through January for photoshoots and filming. As a mother, Brittney enjoys watching her kids do something they’re passionate about; however, she’s more focused on helping them find their “why’s.” When she noticed one of her one son’s wanting to save Siberian tigers, Brittney encouraged him by helping create and sell buttons for the cause. As someone who believes in service as the root of fulfillment, she wanted to build on her son’s idea and, therefore, came up with the idea for @projecteightcampaign. Now, as a family of 8, Brittney, her husband and her kids are all working on supporting their own individuals causes, fulfilling each of their individual why’s! So great to meet you, @projecteightcampaign! #10kfriends #nyc #bryantpark #bryantparkjugglers #marriage #utah #parkcity #byu #mother #family #why #service #meetingpeople • How we met: Brittney heard about my project through one of her friends and then DM’ed me to meet!
So far he’s met nearly 3000 strangers who are now friends.
In Hoboken, he met up with Kenny Spooner at a cafe in Hoboken. He has no prepared questions, and doesn’t take notes. They just chat and get to know each other.
“It’s a lot of just sharing back and forth with no pressure and I think that puts people at ease. I think they come in more open,” Lawless said.
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2922. “She saw the spark in me with the camera. She saw my potential.” When Kenny Spooner was in high school, he invested most of his time and energy into basketball. As the team’s shooting guard, he finished about 100 points shy of 1,000 career points at the school. During his senior year, though, he also picked up a passion for film when he took a Video Production class. As Kenny went off to play basketball at @cazenoviacollege, he started as a freshman on the team, but also took his camera with him and began filming videos with his friends. A few months into his freshman year, however, he unfortunately became sick with mono and ended up being bedridden for about 2 months. Kenny left Cazenovia and, afterwards, transferred to @montclairstateu thanks to his mother, who encouraged him to join the Broadcasting program there. While at Montclair State, Kenny became immersed in film due to a professor, Steve McCarthy, who invited Kenny to join him on a feature length documentary project. As a senior, Kenny traveled to Italy and Austria, making the film on a choral group of students. Then, upon graduating, he created another film, which followed the life of a boxer who was training and simultaneously fighting lymphatic cancer. The story gained coverage by outlets like @people and @goodmorningamerica, which then gave Kenny the credibility to continue down his filmmaking path. In 2015, he started filming his most recent project, “Life With Layla,” which follows the effects of substance abuse and addiction through the lens of a 7-year old girl (5 of her 7 family members struggle or have struggled with addiction). Now, with the project complete, Kenny is working to share Layla’s story with wider audiences through hopefully securing distribution on a platform, such as @hbo! So awesome to meet you, @kennyspooner! #10kfriends #hoboken #basketball #mono #montclairstate #film #documentary #chorus #boxing #substanceabuse #lifewithlayla #filmmaker #hbo #meetingpeople • How we met: Kenny heard about my project through my sister, @mml527. They met during my sister’s honeymoon in Italy and after she told him about my project, he DM’ed me to meet!
They meet for 1 hour, and then Rob writes up a quick post for the project. He meets four people a day, the first one at 10 a.m. the last one at 4 p.m.
The oldest person was Eva, at 98 years old. The youngest, 5 year old Porter who has Down Syndrome.
“We played for an hour. I talked more so to his mother about what it’s like to have a child with Down Syndrome, and how they were advocating for that,” Lawless said.
WATCH: Rob Lawless Stops By CBSN New York Studios
He started the whole thing nearly four years ago, when he had a full time job at a tech start-up. But when he got laid off, he went full time with the project, and makes a little money finding companies to sponsor him.
“Last year, in the summer, I had like $500 to my name. And in those times I become more aggressive in seeking out partnerships,” Lawless said.
As more and more people learn about the project through social media, he’s getting messages every day from people interested in meeting up with him.
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2840. “I spoke Japanese better than I spoke English at the time.” When Dale Mori-Ryan was in kindergarten, she moved with her family from Hoboken to Taiwan for her mother’s work. In elementary school, she then moved again to Japan where she stayed for a few years, attending a public school there and settling into the culture. Though she and her family moved back to Hoboken afterwards, Dale retained her love for the country by obtaining her degree in Asian Studies at @mtholyoke. While studying abroad in Japan, she met her husband who’s from London, and together, they chose to teach English there after graduation so they could be in the same area. After the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, however, Dale and her husband decided to move back to Hoboken while things returned to normal. They eventually settled down here and, in 2013, Dale opened a coffee shop with her younger brother to help serve their mother’s mission of providing support to the people of Haiti. Using a space their mother owned which used to be a salon, Dale and her brother opened @bwekafe, which means “to drink coffee” in Haitian Creole. They used their proceeds to help benefit the organizations, Love for Haiti and Coffee for Water, and over time became staples of the community here in Hoboken. With about 6.5 years of experience under their belts, Dale and her family now own 2 locations in the area and are planning to open a third this Fall! So great to meet you and I’ll see you around, Dale! #10kfriends #hoboken #taiwan #japan #coffeeshop #bwekafe #loveforhaiti #coffeeforwater #haiti #community #meetingpeople • How we met: @flaviosity (#2837) introduced me to Dale a few days ago when Dale took our picture for our meeting! I then DM’ed her and we set up a time to meet!
Dale Ryan met with Rob a couple months ago, and it’s opened her up.
“Where maybe I would be more reserved talking to someone, I’ve reached out more and it’s opened my mind to making more connections,” Ryan said.
So what was it like for Kenny?
“It was amazing talking to Rob he sits there and he listens to you,” he said. “You know we’re going to be friends for life, and Rob is a great guy, and I really think this project is going to take off for him.”
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2474. Dylan Marcus and I chatted a bunch about life at @intelligentsiacoffee this evening. He wasn’t as interested in sharing his story as he was in just meeting and hanging, which is fine by me, so I just turned off my brain and chilled! Here’s a picture of us with his dog, Noah, though! 🐶✌🏼 Great hanging with you, @dylanmarcus! #10kfriends #losangeles #silverlake #dogs #meetingpeople • How we met: Dylan came across my project via @instagram and then DM’ed me to meet!
Rob will be in the area through December 7th, and then move on to another place.
CBS2’s Cindy Hsu couldn’t resist. She signed up to hang out with him for an hour. We’ll see how that goes.
Rob says at the rate he’s going, it will take about 10 more years to reach his goal of meeting 10,000 new friends.