On October 7, the sky at the Mason Early Childhood Center filled with pink balloons - floating towards the heavens as MECC students cheered. The pink balloon launch kicks off Sophia's 40 Day Challenge, a movement in memory of Sophia Grace Smallwood, the niece of MECC first grade teacher BJ Smallwood. Sophia Smallwood was born premature with heart defects and passed away on November 10, 2010.
"This is our fifth year participating in Sophia's Challenge. Initially it was only a few kindergarten classes, but it has been growing each year," shared MECC Kindergarten teacher Michelle Hastings. "This year we have two second grade classes joining us, which was student initiated. A student who had participated in the challenge before asked her teachers if they could join the challenge this year too. It is so heartwarming to see students accept the challenge for the forty days, see the impact they can make, and then want to continue to spread kindness. These students are changing the world, one act of kindness at a time."
From October 9-November 17, the kindergartners are taking on the Sophia Smallwood 40 Day Challenge – a challenge to do random acts of kindness for others for 40 days to spread love and compassion. Students will be "filling Sophia's heart" everyday. There are huge hearts in the MECC hallways and every time MECC staff "catch" a child paying it forward they get to write their name on a small heart and glue it onto the large heart in the hall. The goal will be to try to "fill up" all the hearts.
“At the start of the year we learned about being bucket fillers. We are becoming experts at it, but even the best bucket fillers can use some reminders to get refocused on taking care of others,” said Hastings. “We want to teach our kids to be life-long learners, but we also want to instill in them compassion and the importance of caring for one another!” said Hastings.
“Sophia shared her love here on earth for 40 beautiful days, but she has continued to share that love from heaven ever since. Sophia's parents have done wonderful work in her name and memory. Working closely with the American Heart Association they have helped spread information, raise money and work with families who have children with heart problems."