Over the past two weeks, students at Christa McAuliffe School have been writing notes with positive messages to send to their friends, family and teachers. The notes, the center of the “Comet Kindness Campaign,” include messages that read “You put the kind in mankind,” “More people should be like you,” and “You are a rock star because . . .”
“I don’t know who came up with this kindness campaign, but I think it’s a really good idea,” said Evan Cote, 10, a fifth-grade student at the school.
That idea came from Heather Drolet, technology integrator, and a group of teachers. They started the campaign as a fundraiser to support their colleague, Sharon Richert, a third-grade teacher.
Richert is on a leave of absence while her husband, Michael, 36, undergoes treatment for an aggressive form of adenocarcinoma. Michael Richert, an emergency room nurse at Elliot Hospital in Manchester, was first diagnosed with colon cancer two years ago. The couple, who live in Manchester, have two sons, ages 3 and 6.
“Going through it a second time has been really hard for them,” said Kris Gallo, principal at the elementary school.
The kindness campaign, Drolet said, is the school community’s way to give back to a family that gives back to others. “Because Sharon and her husband are in careers that help people . . . we decided to pay it forward,” she said.
To raise money for the Richerts, students pay $1 to send a kind note to whomever they choose. The campaign is structured in the same way as a candy gram fundraiser; for a donation, a piece of candy – or in this case, a kind word – will be delivered to a person chosen by the donor.
“We just love how the kids have stepped up,” Gallo said.
Since the campaign started about two weeks ago, more than $1,100 has been raised.
Mike Pelletier, a fifth-grade teacher, described the fundraising effort as “a way to spread goodness throughout the school.”
“And it’s been a hit,” he added.
The campaign was scheduled to end Friday, but it has been extended by a week. The school hopes to raise $2,000 for the Richerts by the end of it. While the campaign is running, the school is collecting the money and the messages. Once the campaign comes to an end, the “Comet Kindness” messages will be distributed to recipients in their classrooms.
Students were encouraged to write notes to anyone they wanted to, with notes being written to both their classmates and teachers, Drolet said. The kindness campaign has the potential to reach beyond just the community at Christa McAuliffe. Notes could be given to people outside of the school – students’ families, neighbors or friends – and donations could come from people throughout the Concord community, she said.
Richert, who started teaching in Concord in 2006, is popular at Christa McAuliffe. A group of fifth-grade students who were all in Richert’s class three years ago interrupted and spoke over each other in an enthusiastic effort the other day to share all of the positive attributes of their former teacher: She’s nice, fun, funny and sometimes strict – but “strict in a good way,” Andy Bengtson, 10, said.
Richert, who has taught second and third grade at the school, implemented “Magic Trash,” a cleanup program, in her second-grade classroom, the students said. When students picked an item off of the ground, Richert would give them a reward, such as a piece of candy. Magic Trash was so successful that other teachers implemented the idea in their classrooms.
The fifth-grade students said they thought it was important to help Richert and her husband.
“I haven’t met him, but I bet he’s really nice,” Evan Cote said.
The Comet Kindness Campaign was discussed at last month’s community meeting at the school, a time when parents, students and teachers gather, Drolet said. Each month has a theme; the most recent theme was caring. The Comets are the school’s symbol and inspired an acronym of the school’s message: Caring, On task, Motivated, Enthusiastic, Tolerant and Safe.
In addition to paying kindness forward and gathering donations through this campaign, the Christa McAuliffe School has been purchasing groceries for the Richert family, preparing freezer meals, and selling calendars, with the proceeds intended to go to the family.
An online fundraising page has also been set up at youcaring.com/Richert.
(Susan Doucet can be reached at 369-3309, [email protected] or on Twitter @susan_doucet.)
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