Friday would have been Charlotte Bacon's seventh birthday. The Sandy Hook Elementary School student loved animals and the color pink.
And the founders of Newtown Kindness -- Newtown resident Aaron Carlson and his wife Christie -- wanted to do something to remember the young victim of the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, for whom the organization was founded. Something that would make the world a kinder place.
Enter the Charlotte Bacon Act of Kindness Awards, held Friday at the HealingNewtown Arts Space. From among hundreds of nominees, Newtown Kindness organizers chose eight children to single out for their efforts to spread kindness across the world.
"We believe that kindness really should be a guiding principle of humanity," said Carlson. "We believe we should be fostering a kindness mindset in our children."
Charlotte's grandfather, Dan, spoke, thanking the community for the "outpouring" of support. In an emotional speech, her parents Joel and JoAnn Bacon shared their memories of Charlotte and their certainty that she would love the kindness that had gone so far in her name.
The Act of Kindness award recipients:
- First grader Sara Casey, from Ohio, who led her class in creating a Kindness Quilt.
- Newtown fifth graders Natalie Horn, Lindsay Dievert and Shannon Jackman, who founded a "Chain of Love" by mailing paper hearts around the world and documenting their journeys on their Facebook page.
- Wisconsin elementary schooler Ariana Pensy, whose essay encouraged others to "fill buckets" of love for those around them.
- Monroe students Alyson Oleyar and Laura Crowley, creators of the Cool Kids Care Carnival.
- 'Kindest Heart in Texas' student Caren Ulcak.
- 'The Cousins That Care,' a young family of fundraisers from California.
- Sonali and Mano Ranaweera, a brother and sister from California who have led efforts for recycling and donations for cleft lip surgeries.
- Marcus and Andreas Josaitas, two brothers from California who save their allowance money to donate to worthy causes.
A group of exceptional Newtown kids also received honorary notice -- including Sandy Hook student Mark Deloughy, who, Carlson said, showed exceptional bravery by comforting his fellow students after the shooting. Deloughy wants to be a police officer when he grows up; a state police officer presented him with his award.
Each of the "Leaders of Kindness," as the organization dubbed the young winners, received a travel package to see different sports teams -- including the Philadelphia Phillies and the Houston Dynamo, a major sponsor for the group -- and a donation to a charity of their choice.
Newtown Kindness treasurer Tom Krapf, who co-hosted the event, told Patch the event is the culmination of all their work.
"This thing blew up so quickly," he said. "We really just wanted to get to tonight and make tonight successful. Our focus has really been on what we need to do to make Charlotte's birthday and this awards ceremony a successful one."
He's not sure what the future holds, but for an organization whose founders originally envisioned handing out a few $50 gift certificates, he's optimistic.
"We've gotten more support than we've ever imagined, we've gotten more donations than we've ever imagined," he said.
Follow Patch for more upcoming coverage from the Charlotte Bacon Act of Kindness event, including photos and video.