COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- It started as a small class project. Mrs. Daugherty’s third-grade class at Fremont Elementary in Colorado Springs was asked to write anonymous notes to one another with a compliment.
They would then drop these notes in a plastic pink can and Mrs. Daugherty would read them aloud at the end of the week.
“I believe there’s more to a student in academia and I feel that fostering their ability to show kindness and their love to others verbally and nonverbally is a huge part of learning,” said Rebecca Daugherty.
Sometimes the notes would be for something a student did, or sometimes it would be a little encouragement.
“First I had to put a little note on everybody’s desk and say, 'O.K. this is the day that we’re doing complements' but now they come up to me and they say, 'can I write a complement?” Daugherty said.
Now, it’s one of the highlights of their week.
“It’s just teaching them to look past themselves and I think as a society we don’t do that enough and we don’t send our praise to others,” Daugherty said.
The idea became so popular, some of the students have started writing more notes and doing what they can to put a smile on someone else’s face.
“I had a student... she’s walking around the back of the classroom yesterday and I invited her back to the carpet; she seemed hesitant and I saw she had a note in her hand,” Daugherty said. “The note said, ‘Try your best, have a great year’ and it was an encouraging note for a classmate who she formally did not get along with.”
Now, these third-graders are once again looking beyond themselves and even their classroom to spread that kindness to others. It’s just one of several schools in District 11 participating in the "Random Acts of Kindness" project.
The students each drew a picture for a patient at the Colorado Blood Cancer Institute/Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, in partnership with the Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center.
“I like when we did the coloring, how we colored the pictures and we’re gonna send it to the people in the hospital that are sick,” said Luna Elliott, an 8-year-old at Fremont Elementary School who has dreams of being a ballerina or self-professed bug saver.
She’s the one Mrs. Daugherty caught writing the note for a classmate.
“If you don’t choose kindness then you can probably break someone’s heart,” Elliott said.
They chose to color pictures instead of writing letters because sometimes it’s hard to find the right things to say.
“We talked about how we don’t always have to have the words and we don’t know what to say but we can use art to show our love,” Daugherty said.
But the artwork these students made was certainly appreciated by the patients.
“It makes you feel cared about it definitely... spread love and this world needs a lot more of that especially people that are going to difficult times, so I value this a lot,” said Audie Vigil, a patient who’s been battling leukemia for the past four years.
He’s waiting for his third bone marrow transplant from his son.
“It’s tough going through difficult things here at the hospital and so to have something like this to put on your wall, I mean, it definitely brightens your day,” Vigil said.
Even the nurses are loving the artwork. Samantha Schram is church friends with Mrs. Daugherty and was the one who brought the letters down from Colorado Springs.
“Most people don’t understand what it means to go through something like this, especially young children,” Schram said. “If you look at this hallway - our patients - this is actually the only thing they see for weeks at a time. They aren’t allowed to go outside or off the unit and many of our rooms don’t have the best views so just to have something nice and pretty and colorful to look at, it just brightens their day.”
The nurses are also getting ready to spread kindness by participating in the Light the Night event hosted by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. It’s an event that happens each year during Blood Cancer Awareness Month.
“It’s a fundraiser to help with research but also LLS does grants to help patients who have a hard time paying for their treatments, and so a lot of our patients - that's actually how they were able to get their transplants, is through the financial help,” Schram said.
As for Mrs. Daugherty’s class, they’re getting ready to write thank you letters to all the school secretaries in the district as their next Random Act of Kindness project.
“One thing I try to teach my kids is that kindness is free, and you don’t need to have a lot of money to show your kindness,” Daugherty said.
And they’re hoping their message of kindness and love will inspire others to look for ways to show compassion.
“If the world is going to get any better, it’s going to be through these little, bitty acts of kindness that some people don’t realize make a huge difference in other people’s lives,” said Schram.