This past November, the Merrill Area Community Foundation announced the approval of 12 grants worth $10,286 for local educators through the annual “Beyond Crayons and Computers” grant program. One such grant of $1,000 was awarded to Washington School’s Team EPIC (Encouragment Perseverance Integrity Commitment) comprised of third grade teachers Terri Eckes, Robin Hanson and Amy Van Alstine. The grant was awarded based upon the team’s “Spread Kindness like Confetti” project concept.
“Our goal was to sprinkle kindness throughout Merrill,” Eckes explains with a smile, “and helping children to understand how it feels to give and receive acts of kindness, especially the giving aspect.”
The team wasted no time in putting the grant funding to work, as the trio and their students paid visits to city departments including the Merrill Fire and Police departments and Merrill Street Department to deliver Christmas cookies last December. They also visited Jenny Towers residents, played Bingo and sang Christmas carols. Then this past April, Team EPIC students managed a booth during the school’s “Healthy Kids, Healthy Planet” event and constructed gift bags containing lollipops and flowers. The bags were then distributed to other Washington Elementary students, and asked students to go around the community and give both bags to people they don’t know.
Other activities of the “Spreading Kindness” effort included sending care package to recent MHS graduate Kyle Cichy, who is currently in the military and stationed in Italy. Cichy requested his favorite snacks and personal care items and the students not only gathered these items for him, but used grant funding to send the package overseas.
Then last week as the school year was winding to a close, Team EPIC introduced one last activity as part of the project in constructing 102 “Bags of Sunshine.”
Putting grant funds to use by purchasing snacks and items with a yellow sunshine theme, the items were placed in bags and two bags were distributed to each Team EPIC student. Students were again asked to go around the community and give both bags to two people they don’t know.
“Students went up to a random person they don’t know and tell that person, ‘I’m from Washington School and I’d like to spread kindness,’ then hand over their bags,” Hanson adds with a smile.
In looking back on the project and its outcome, Eckes was pleased.
“When reflecting with learners they mentioned how nervous they were about handing out the Sunshine Bags, but were beaming with pride and stories when they discussed it with peers. Moments of kindness leave lasting impressions, our hope is that the ripple reaches many.”