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Kings County Academy students spread kindness throughout Kentville

Grade 7 student Raina Gerrard was part of the group who made treats and then delivered them to service providers in Kentville, including the recreation department, Mayor Sandra Snow, the fire department and Emergency Health Services (EHS).
Grade 7 student Raina Gerrard was part of the group who made treats and then delivered them to service providers in Kentville, including the recreation department, Mayor Sandra Snow, the fire department and Emergency Health Services (EHS). - Laura Churchill Duke
KENTVILLE, N.S. —

“Choose happy.”

“Kindness matters.”

These were the messages Kings County Academy (KCA) middle school students in Kentville randomly handed out as part of the second annual Kodiaks Give Back day.

 “Our school is incredibly lucky to be a part of the community of Kentville,” says vice principal Krista Parrish.

KCA has a partnership with the town, which provides the students with great opportunities, such as skating at the Kentville rink, holding bike rallies and using the skate park, playground and splash pad.

“We feel that it is important for our students to give back to the community that gives them so much,” says Parrish.

Students signed up for one of 10 groups, including painting and placing poetry rocks around Miner’s Marsh, sewing comfort pillows to be donated to post-mastectomy patients at the Valley Regional Hospital, delivering treats to thank service providers in town, randomly passing out words of kindness or treats, creating sidewalk chalk art, performing music in Centre Square, picking up garbage along the trail, helping with the elementary field day, and cleaning the Christian Reform Church prior to a concert.

‘IT FEELS REALLY GOOD’

Grade 8 teacher Eileen Hiltz’s group did its volunteer work last week, helping Open Arms prepare the former church on Oakdene Avenue for a fundraising concert.

“When we walked in, it was like a back room at Value Village,” says Hiltz, adding that there was no room to move with so much stuff in the building.

Youth volunteers loaded six truckloads of items to go to Value Village and one to Valley Waste. Then, they moved furniture, including heavy oak church pews from downstairs to upstairs. The entire process, she says, was amazing and the students were beyond anything she could have ever hoped for.

While there, Hiltz said a volunteer from Inn From the Cold explained how the shelter worked and how people end up there, emphasizing that it's not always by choice. She talked a lot to them, says Hiltz, about how there are families at KCA who are using their services - including some of the youth who graduated last year from KCA and have no place to stay, so they come for food, clothing and shelter.

The concert, says Hiltz, was to raise funds for these services.

"You know, it feels really good to help people,” one student told Hiltz.

The rest of the KCA middle schoolers completed their random acts of kindness June 25.

Under the tutelage of Janice McNeil, a group of students helped sew pillows for cancer patients. The heart-shaped comfort pillows are useful to post-mastectomy patients for the relief of site discomfort, says McNeil, a proud breast cancer survivor herself. Operated on in 2013, she found this pattern to alleviate her own pain issues and shared this with her sewing team members from Grade 6 and7.

“The students rose to the challenge and made 34 pillows that are ready to be donated to the Valley Regional Hospital to be used to bring cheer and comfort to mastectomy patients,” says McNeil.

Gavin Stevens was one of the Grade 7 students who worked on this project.  

“I think it will make people feel better after they have surgery,” he says. “And it will make them feel more relaxed and happier and maybe make them not feel as sick.”

SEEING IMPACTS

Other students got to see the immediate reaction of their deeds. One group handed out small, spirit-lifting notes of kindness randomly to people on the streets or in shops.

“We handed a card to one woman that said, ‘Choose Happy’,” said a Grade 7 student. “She looked at the card and almost started crying! Then, she gave us a big hug.”

This happened several times, with students getting hugs and high-fives, and more tears of joy when a cleaning staff member realized the note was just for her.

“It doesn’t take much to make a big impact on someone,” said the group’s teacher-leader, Erica MacKinnon. “You never know what someone’s back story is, or what is going on in someone’s life.”

Something similar happened with the students who set up a trading booth in front of the Kentville Ultramar. Students passed out random treats in exchange for a promise that the individual would do a random act of kindness in the next week.

“It didn’t take long for the students to see the impact,” says Mary Tanner-Long, the staff member helping the group.

One woman exited the store, says Tanner-Long, and received her treat. She then told the students she forgot something and went back into the store and came out with cookies for all the students. Something similar happened with a gentleman who bought them all Freezies.

“This is the best thing I have been involved with all year at school,” says Tanner-Long, noting this should be done in September to keep the kindness flowing throughout the school year.

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