By Lisa Capobianco
Students at Hatton Elementary school kicked off their own town meeting with a promise to make the new year all about acts of kindness.
Fifth graders serving on the STEPS ABC Committee hosted the event, leading other students and faculty members in the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy. Between reading aloud quotes of the renowned civil rights leader and recognizing his mission, the kindness ambassadors led the school in pledging to make 2014 all about being kind.
But the event also celebrated another initiative, one that has also received recognition on a national level: Ben’s Bells. The Ben’s Bells project is a non-profit community art project with the goal of inspiring and educating individuals on the way performing acts of kindness can make an impact.
The project focuses on the creation of ceramic works of art inspired by the spirit of a boy named Ben Packard of Tucson, Ariz. who died unexpectedly in 2002. As a coping strategy, Ben’s family created the design for Ben’s Bells and made hundreds of the ceramic artwork, distributing it throughout the community.
In the U.S., 239 schools currently participate in the program.
“Making these bells really became a community effort,” Hatton parent Leigh Pechillo told students during the event. “They want people to be interested in kindness, to be excited about kindness.
When Pechillo heard about the project through a post on Facebook written by a friend, she felt inspired to bring the initiative to Hatton School. During the town meeting, Pechillo presented shared the story of Ben’s Bells with students and faculty, spreading the message about what it means to be kind and how it can make a lasting impact.
“Performing kind acts make you feel good—there shouldn’t be reward for it,” Pechillo said, adding that Ben’s Bells also came to Newtown last year to spread the project’s message after the Sandy Hook tragedy.
Instead of hanging ceramic bells in the school, Pechillo said 266 coins will be distributed, allowing students to pass them on to each other every time they see an act of kindness, such as holding the door for someone or giving a compliment. The goal is to pass the coins along without keeping them, to share more than to receive.
As a challenge, Pechillo told students to perform 100 acts of kindness within the next seven days.
“The timing of it is so right,” said Principal Sally Kamerbeek, adding that more quotes of kindness will surround the school. “There is nothing greater than having children understand kindness in this world.”