Students make cards for children’s hospital for ‘Be Kind’ event


Jene ThomasGeneral Assignment Reporter

With the return of the holiday season, Southern Connecticut State University began organizing different events around campus to bring new meaning to gift giving. As students finish up classes and get ready to return home, some of the residence halls wish to send them off with one last message. Be Kind.

Michaela Haynie, a resident advisor in North Campus Midrise, hosted the “Be Kind” event in the hall lobby Dec. 4. Haynie encouraged fellow staff members and students to draw for the children’s ward in St. Jude’s Hospital.

“What we’re doing here is making cards and sending them to hospital,” she said.

As people walked in, they were greeted by the event table, where construction paper, scented markers and festive stickers were provided.

The “Be Kind” idea for Haynie’s in-hall event came from an organization in Newtown called Ben’s Bells, although it started off in Tucson, Ariz., whose fundamental ideas are to spread kindness and be present throughout the community.

According to the organization’s website, its purpose is to, “inspire, educate, and motivate people to realize the impact of intentional kindness, and to empower individuals to act according to that awareness, thereby strengthening ourselves, our relationships and our communities.”

Ben’s Bells travelled to a grieving Newtown after the Sandy Hook shooting on Dec. 14, 2012. They hand paint and decorate holiday bells and then hide them around the community. Finding a bell, according to Haynie, is a reminder to just be kind.

Haynie, who has been to the Newtown location,
described the studio as a “fun” place where people could paint and be creative. The organization opened a shop in Newtown where community member can go in and help decorate bells. They offer open hours for decorations.

Ben’s Bells was inspired by founder Jeannette Maré’s family story, according to the store website. On one March afternoon in 2002, the Maré family came to grips with sudden tragedy. Her son, Ben, who was nearly 3-years-old, had died unexpectedly.

In an effort to cope, Maré came up with a design for Ben’s Bells. She began crafting them at home with clay as a means of therapy. Her family and friends, who are credited as being how the Maré could survive the passing of her son, also helped create the bells, followed by members of the community.

Ben’s story can be found on bensbell.org, where people can also make bells, share family stories or even donate to the organization.

“Since Ben’s death, it had been the kindness of others, strangers and friends, that had helped us begin to heal,” the family said. “We wanted to find a way to pass on that kindness and to help others in the process.”

The “Be Kind” initiative in North was said to be a take on “Ben’s Bells” for Southern students in order to strengthen community ties and “bring on a smile.” By sending a card to the St. Jude’s Hospital, children battling cancer and other potentially fatal illnesses have something to smile about during the holiday time.

Participants were given creative freedom. They could draw anything holiday related on the card and provide a special message inside. The event only lasted from 8 p.m.-9 p.m. but was still considered a success by the staff.

“I think being a part of the community, you’re job is to do all that you can to support your community,” Haynie said. “If you’re involved in the community, you’ll have a better understanding of what’s going on around you, the world around you and the people around you.”

“You are the community,” said Jonathan Antrum, a fellow RA in North Campus.

Photo Credit: Jene Thomas

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