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A Celebration of Kindness

JoAnn Bacon explains the importance of kindness at the Charlotte Bacon Act of Kindness Awards, Feb. 22, 2013. Credit: Davis Dunavin
JoAnn Bacon explains the importance of kindness at the Charlotte Bacon Act of Kindness Awards, Feb. 22, 2013. Credit: Davis Dunavin

Kindness As A Mission

Charlotte Bacon loved the color pink. She loved animals, especially her yellow lab Lily. She loved exploring and getting into trouble. And most of all, she loved her family.

"She was boldness, she was mischief, and she was love," her parents remember on MySandyHookFamily.org, the site launched by families earlier this week to honor the victims of 12/14. "She made us laugh daily with her crazy antics and were amazed by her clever insight and curiosity. We miss her singing loudly with the car radio, hearing her feet always running, never walking down the hallway in our home."

So it was only right that Charlotte’s parents Joel and JoAnn wanted to honor her by encouraging other kids to do the same.

“We just thought it was appropriate to honor Charlotte in this manner — around kindness,” says Newtown Kindness founder Aaron Carlson. “And really it's the one thing that the Bacons want to support. They're not interested in politics and guns and mental health. Kindness seems to be a no brainer.”

A Sandy Hook father, Carlson’s daughter Ava was close friends with Charlotte. He formed Newtown Kindness in January to support moves toward the kind of world he thought she would like to see.

“The fact is, the community of Newtown is focused on kindness,” he says. “There’s so much amazing kindness directed towards us, it’s really part of what changed our perspective here and made us think we need to get involved in it. There’s so much kindness out there, you see it and you want to be a part of it.”

To that end, Newtown Kindness has held lemonade drives. They’ve done walk-a-thons. And they’ve hosted the Charlotte Bacon Act of Kindness Awards. Maybe the first of its kind, the awards celebrate kids who perform nice deeds for friends, family or strangers.

In a new initiative just launched earlier this month, the group is spreading “Kindness Buckets” to schools near and far, encouraging teachers to reward kids for their acts of love. The concept is simple.

“Kids do kind acts, write them down and put them in the bucket,” says Newtown Kindness board member Carolyn Walker. “We built this whole educational program around the buckets …  They go out with a teaching program and the teachers follow the instructional guide, teach the kids about kindness.”

Inspired by children’s author Charlotte McCloud’s book Bucket Fillers, the campaign took off when Hawley Elementary School teacher Donna Albano decided to put it into practice.

“So now we’re mailing buckets, books and lesson plans across the country,” Carlson says. “We’re getting this reach and planting this seed of kindness in our youth. It’s a mindset journey. I think it’s fantastic a teacher decides to take some time out in the day and not talk about math, science, writing, but talk about giving and being kind to others. It’s a real change in these schools, and I see it happening a lot here in Newtown.

Kindness buckets have sprung up in schools across Newtown. A good deal of the thanks, Carlson says, goes to a girl named Ariana from Wisconsin, who entered the Charlotte Bacon Act of Kindness Awards contest in February with the idea.

"Four days before the awards ceremony, I called her and said, ‘We’re going to recognize you,'" Carlson says. "They flew here to Newtown for that event. When she went back home, she became a little superstar there in Wisconsin because now someone had this connection to Newtown. She got a letter from a girl she doesn’t know who said, 'Thank you for being kind.' She used to get bullied and doesn’t anymore because the kids are trying to be more like Ariana. It’s a ripple effect of kindness."

Newtown Kindness will host the second annual Charlotte Bacon Act of Kindness awards in Februrary at Edmond Town Hall. Submissions are currently being accepted: what’s your act of kindness?

Read On: Ben’s Bells Spreads Tokens of Joy

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