On October 9, the sky at the Mason Early Childhood Center filled with pink balloons - floating towards the heavens as 300 MECC students cheered. But the AM and PM kindergartners in Tina Darling, Jessica Grabeman, Michelle Hastings, Lori Miller, Susan Ossim, Ragan Reeves, Natalie Rodefeld, Katie Sheehan and Shelly Whalen's classes weren’t just launching balloons – they were launching a movement in memory of Sophia Grace Smallwood, the niece of MECC first grade teacher BJ Smallwood (whose students also participated). Sophia Smallwood was born premature with heart defects and passed away on November 10, 2010.
“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,” explained Michelle Hastings.
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 will write the student's name on a small heart that will be glued 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.
If you want to join the challenge or read more about it, visit the Sophia's 40 Day Challenge: Pay It Forward Facebook page.