Island students find kindness goes a long way

There’s been a lot more kindness in the world lately.

And the kids at Captain Charles Wilkes Elementary have something to do with it.

All of the students at the school — nearly 400 of them — just wrapped up the Great Kindness Challenge.

The Great Kindness Challenge, launched by the nonprofit Kids for Peace, started 10 years ago in Carlsbad, California. Held during the last week in January, the challenge presents kids with a checklist of 50 kind acts to do.

The checklist includes ideas such as “smile at 25 people,” “tell a joke and make someone laugh” and “hug your friend.”

Last year, organizers said the Great Kindness Challenge was taken on by more than 10 million students in more than 90 countries. The 2017 numbers: 500 million acts of kindness and then some.

Sue Constan, the counselor at Wilkes Elementary, said she brought the challenge to the school two years ago from Commodore.

“The kids really embrace it,” she said.

The challenge starts with the checklist, then inspiration comes.

“It sort of takes on a life of its own,” Constan said.

It may just be due to the last challenge on the challenge list: “Create your own kind deed.”

At Wilkes, there’s quite a few of those. There’s the “Buddy Bench,” where someone can sit if they don’t have anyone to play with.

Some third-graders then came up with the idea for the “Friend Squad.” If they saw someone on the Buddy Bench for too long, they’d go find somebody they’d talked to with similar interests and match them up.

One idea for kindness had the whole school rockin’: Students in every art class painted “kindness” stones, decorating them with hearts and other symbols.

The students planned to give the rocks to people who needed cheering up, but some stones will also be scattered in random places around the island for strangers to find, enjoy and maybe pass along to keep the kindness karma going.

In Jill Queen’s art classes at the school, kids quickly scooped up a rock or two to decorate.

There were big choices, they said, about painting their stones to fit the theme — and where to leave them. Somewhere near Safeway, and downtown Winslow, were popular choices.

“I painted one and I’m going to do another, with a heart and flower, with sun rays coming out,” said Emma Lavery, 7.

Kindness, it seems, is a gift with more than one recipient.

“People can feel sad but you can brighten up their day by doing something for them,” the second-grader said.

Gavin Browning, 6, also painted two rocks, both featuring hearts.

“I want them to go to the homeless, and talk to their families. They need some kindness — and homes,” he said.

At the end of the challenge, firefighters from the Bainbridge Island Fire Department, and police officers from the Bainbridge Island Police Department, visited the school to help collect the challenge checklists.

After the number of completed challenges were counted up, the students discovered just how many kind acts they’d passed along.

The total: 5,453 kind deeds, Constan said.

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